What We Did Right…

Jeanne and I spent a lot of time talking this weekend about our Thanksgiving 2k15 experience.  (And in full disclosure, most of that time was in the car on our way to and from to Kansas City for a day of shopping on Saturday, wherein I also taught Jeanne how to watch Gene Pitney videos on YouTube and completely BLEW HER MIND with the technology available to us in the waning weeks of 2015.)

And after a full dissection of what worked and what didn’t, we declare the last week to be a complete success.  Let’s look at what worked…

  1. We were realistic about the challenges we faced this year.  We totally owned our shortcomings of Thanksgiving 2k14 and focused on those areas of improvement with some white-hot intensity.
  2. We made peace with the fact that we would spend at least one full night at PJP Buttonwood.  Working all day with the knowledge that you’ll be working all night somehow makes it easier.  I don’t know why.  Do you?
  3. Limiting pie variety options for Wednesday proved to be most helpful.  As we baked through the night, we moved more quickly working on 12 varieties of nine-inch pie (as opposed to the over 20 different types of pie available in jars, babies, nine-inch and 12-inch last year).
  4. Asking the customer to choose a two-hour window for pickup helped ensure that we could plan our baking schedule accordingly.  By 3 am on Wednesday morning, I knew that the round of pickups scheduled for 10:30 to 12:30 were finished and that helped control our anxiety and helped us to focus on the 12:30 to 2:30 pickups.  As we rolled into noon on Wednesday, we were completely finished with the baking schedule (and by comparison, we were likely around 25% finished at noon on Wednesday last year).
  5. Mostly notably, we were overly prepared…in every way.  We had extra space, extra food supplies, extra bags, extra staff, extra hope, extra fear, extra anxiety, extra everything.  In the end, we even had a few extra pies for sale.
  6. The extra space in Spare Space was paramount to our Thanksgiving operation.  Plenty of room for customers, additional pay stations, and a less frenzied atmosphere were all welcome additions to our pie pickup process.  (A lot of people asked about the cost of Spare Space.  Silent Stan charged us $400 for the month, including utilities.)
  7. Having extra help was a game changer.  GAME CHANGER.  I could write 500 paragraphs for you about what the volunteer help meant to us, but it wouldn’t be enough to convey how important each volunteer was to the entire operation.
  8. We had a lot of data about orders available to us.  And I had that data available in several different formats so that bakers could look at numbers differently than those working at the pickup tables.  And whatever the data set, it was spiral bound so that I wouldn’t find page two on the front counter and page 18 in the bathroom.
  9. We labeled the pie boxes with the customer name and phone number.  As the pies cooled and we started to box them, it helped ensure that we didn’t miss anyone.  For example, if we baked 100 pecan pies and then discovered that we had 105 customer name labels for pecan pie…then we knew we needed to bake another five pecan pies.  Don’t ask me how I know that so well.
  10. We wrote the customer name on each Kraft bag before we ever baked the pies.  As we baked the pies, boxed them, and labeled them, the bags served as the final check that we didn’t miss anyone.  A labeled bag empty of boxed pies indicated a problem to remedy before the person stood in front of you ready to checkout.

And because we keep it real…tomorrow, a list of what we did wrong.




Do you remember last year when we decided to merely dabble in the Thanksgiving 2k14 market by accepting hundreds of orders?  And we baked pies in our relatively new space while people waited in line for two hours to even get into our store?  And Jeanne wore a pumpkin pie hat to break the growing tension in the crowd from turning into an exasperated mob?  And I cried for 91% of the entire experience because I’m terrible at disappointment?  Yeah, me too.

If last year crowned a winner, it was Thanksgiving 2k14 and we received a token cheap trophy for showing up and thinking we could play the game without preparing for it.  I bet Thanksgiving 2k14 even snickered about us behind our backs for not ordering thousands of boxes and bags and organizing ourselves within a margin of error of NONE.

So this year…


It was game on, Thanksgiving 2k15.

And oh, by the way, I’ll just tell you now that we won the imaginary battle.  In the last few days, we baked over a thousand pies. And all of those pies are in their new homes tonight, cooling in their pie box with a label printed containing the purchaser’s name, phone number, order pick up time, and pie flavor.  And maybe still in the large kraft shopping bag with the purchaser’s name written on the outside of the bag so we could find it quickly and then route the customer to one of three pay stations for quick check out and immediate escort to their cars by a crowd control expert who has agreed to be paid in Jimmy John’s for lunch and free pie.  And that is just the start.  I present Exhibit A:


And even though we baked for a solid 36 hours without leaving PJP Buttonwood, even that managed to stay organized and fun.  I present Exhibit B:


Now let’s keep it real.  Did one or both of us cry?  Uh, YEAH.  Did we question our existence and our life goals when reaching the 36 hour point of no sleep?  Basically.  Did we want to quit the Thanksgiving 2k15 battle before it even began?  Yep.  I didn’t realize how tightly wound I had been until I hobbled home tonight and all the relief washed over me (mainly as I changed into yoga pants and then immediately fell asleep on the couch before even selecting a stored episode of House Hunters on HGTV).

So we can break it down about what we did differently this year (everything) or all of our thoughts on the Spare Space and the like (so many thoughts), but the real takeaway from our thoughts tonight is really about all of the love and support shown to us by so many over the past week.  People who have known us for years and people who met us for the first time on Monday came along on this journey with us, like baking pies and stressing out was an event not to be missed.  There wasn’t a minute over the last five days that didn’t find Jeanne or I being cared for in the most generous of ways by the kindness of others.  People texted us and sent us Facebook messages and hugged us and reminded us that believing in World Pie Domination wasn’t crazy at all.  They listened to my Thanksgiving 2k15 plans and helped me improve it all for the very best experience possible.  They showed up at 5 am and worked until 9 pm.  They washed dishes and took out the trash.  They made pie boxes and put stickers on boxes.  They answered phones and waited on customers.  They let us have moments when we were stabby and tired and then kept us moving.  The kids that work for us and their significant others were, as usual, complete and total champs.  They never left our side, did whatever we asked, and stayed until the bitter end…making even the longest night of baking tolerable with 11 pm Mimosas.

That today went well for us is important, of course.  But the unexpected benefits of building a community, of making friends, of introducing our friends to each other, of working together to make one crazy idea (hey, let’s sell 1,000 pies in one day) work, well…it just makes our hearts swell with joy.  We are the luckiest girls ever and we are so thankful for each of you.  So, Thanksgiving 2k15, just know we already won before we ever started…

Whales. And Monks.

Our Thanksgiving 2k15 ordering system officially closed down just a few hours ago (insert collective sigh of relief here).  As Behind-The-Scenes-Tech-Guru Jason continues to work through the numbers, he is continually offering me reports and slices of data that I didn’t even know was possible. I don’t have any final information to share with you just yet, but when I kept asking him if he felt scared after looking at the final totals, he just looked at me from his laptop and raised one eyebrow.  Ok, then.


And all that means is that we’ve reached my very least favorite part of this process…the waiting. We have all the numbers, but because we won’t be able to start baking until VERY VERY EARLY in the morning on Monday, we are just waiting.  And plotting.  And stewing.  And second guessing. And terror sweating.  And rethinking ourselves, our existence, our purpose, and our greater plan.  (But not our ability to lean toward the dramatic, clearly.)

As we worked on baking for PJP Buttonwood today, we could do nothing but discuss what needed to be done for next week.  And as I found my anxiety increasing, I queued up a playlist on Spotify of whales moaning in effort to lower my anxiety.  Except as it turns out, moaning whales aren’t terribly relaxing at all.  And then I switched to a playlist of “Soothing Music of the Monks”…but it turns out that the person who usually does my semi-regular facial must use that playlist, because my Pavlovian response was to want to lay down and have my eyebrows waxed and my skin deeply moisturized.  (Note to self:  make a “I have to bake thousands of pies in the next seven days playlist and whales aren’t helpful” playlist for Spotify.)

As it turns out, we’ve learned that the best way to lower our anxiety is to cross items off our to-do list.  And to that end, we stopped by A1 Rentals and reserved our red velvet ropes for crowd control next week.  And then we ordered 700 pounds of pumpkin to be delivered tomorrow.  And then we helped the mail carrier bring in 2,000 nine-inch pie boxes from Amazon.  And Gunnar was able to climb a ladder and hang our signs to alphabetically divide the crowd for pie pickup.  And because our super amazing friends at Johnston Paint & Decorating had already both loaned us a ton of tables for Spare Space AND had their delivery truck bring the tables over and carry them into Space Space…it suddenly has started to feel like a great short-term addition to PJP.

And as I drove home this evening, I realized that seven days from now – just 168 hours – all the hype of Thanksgiving 2k15 will be over.  And whatever the eventual experience ends up being, it will just be another part of our story…just a chapter in a much bigger book about #WorldPieDomination.  And I finally started to relax just a bit.

Until Behind-The-Scenes-Tech-Guru Jason suggested I not print any reports until I was really ready because I would need hundreds of pages of paper loaded into the printer.