Welcome Back.

As we all know around here, Jeanne and I are at our absolute best when we are completely overwrought with orders, deadlines, and demands.  Here is a little bit about our past few days…

Friday morning found me at the high school in Centralia, sharing my thoughts with business-minded teenagers regarding entrepreneurship.  It found Jeanne running the PJP Buttonwood show.  And it found neither of us with our normal coffee run/morning meeting routine, which impacted how we both felt for the rest of the day (hint:  it was tired…we felt tired, and with a hint of stabby).  And when we finally found each other in the same space for the afternoon, we could only discuss one thing…hamantash.

Hamantash is a pocket-filled pastry, most often recognized for its triangular shape.  They are usually enjoyed during the Jewish holiday of Purim.  A few weeks ago, we received a call from a local synagogue asking if we would like to provide some sample hamantash for tasting and if we proved that we had some serious hamantash baking skills, the synagogue would be interested in ordering 72 DOZEN HAMANTASH.  That’s 864 hamantash, for those of you that just reached for your iPhone calculator.  And after a few rounds of competition, just know that Team PJP came out victorious.  We proudly plan to change our motto to “World Pie Domination (and sometimes Hamantash too)”.

And all of this is just a long way to explain to how we got to this picture on Instagram late Friday afternoon…

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The Monster energy drink was to propel me through the rest of the afternoon, the wine and UV Cherry were for Friday night cocktail hour, and the poppyseed is for the 18 dozen poppyseed hamantash on order.  Hy-vee is likely still scratching its head over who bought 6 pounds of poppyseeds from their bulk foods section, thereby basically emptying the poppyseed bin with one purchase.

In what amounted to essentially the middle of the night on Friday/Saturday, we began hamantash preparations in earnest for a noon pick-up.  We needed to bake 18 dozen cherry, 19 dozen apple, 18 dozen prune, and above mentioned 18 dozen poppyseed.  And once we figured out how to fold them in just the correct way, you couldn’t hold us back.

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After 864 of our newest friends were packaged and headed off to their celebration, we quickly shifted gears to focus selling all the pie at PJP Buttonwood before closing at 1pm and starting to set up for a birthday party for a 5 year-old that was off-the-charts ADORABLE.  And at first thought, you might think taking a group of 10 four and five-year-olds through the process of baking a dutch apple pie is daunting, but it is actually a lot of fun and surprisingly less difficult than you would guess.  It was a charming set of kids and it is clear to me that PJP will have no shortage of skilled bakers in 12 years or so.

And then we went home.  And I couldn’t even muster up the full energy to indulge my Frank Underwood House of Cards Season Three desire that had been nagging at me for a full 24 hours.  Frank takes a lot of mental focus and I really only had enough for DVR’d episodes of The Amazing Race.  (Yep, we know how to rock out a Saturday night at our house.)

And then yesterday, we rallied ourselves again for a completely different sort of baking party from the previous day…a sweet family celebrated the birthdays of the grandfather and granddaughter by learning to make a German Chocolate pie together.  At only a party of six, it was cozy and interesting and just like baking with friends.  Proving once again, we may have the very best jobs in the world..

Today though…today, I found all my mental energy for Frank.  He is TOP NOTCH.  As usual.

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World Cookie Domination?

If you’ve been lucky enough to stop by PJP Buttonwood on just the right day, then you likely know that Jeanne makes insanely delicious cookies.  And pretty true to Jeanne’s creative genius style, she just created her cookie recipe from everything that goes on in her mind (which is, actually, an overwhelming premise to consider).  And when she gets the inclination, she makes a batch of cookies for us to share among ourselves and our customers.  Almost everyone stopping by PJP Buttonwood today was treated to an awesome cookie with their pie purchase.  And in all fairness, Team PJP ate an embarrassing amount of cookies.

Mac has never worked on a cookie day, so today was his first.  (Also, Jeanne let him pick the music before we opened and he was just so relieved to not have to listen to her preferred “Coffeehouse” station for the sixth day in a row that he was pretty much already having a winning Thursday.)  And then this…

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I think beyond his dancing, Jeanne screaming “are you videotaping it?” is my favorite.  All I see in my head when she yells that is this…

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For Sanity’s Sake.

Since last April, we’ve purchased over 10,000 baby pie tins from the same source – webstaurantstore.com.  (And, as a side note, I actually dislike this name more than our baby box source name…mrtakeoutbags.com.  Webstaurantstore is an awkward pseudo-word and it is virtually impossible to spell from memory.  And it makes me think about dinosaurs, not kitchen supplies, for some inexplicable reason.  But I digress.)

Our baby pie tins are really the perfect size…not too small like a budget .97 cent frozen pot pie.  But they also aren’t so big as to miss the whole point being individually sized.  (And if you want to get technical, the perfect tin measures about 5 1/2 inches in diameter and 2 1/8 inches deep.)  The die for our pie press was actually hand-cut to match the baby pie tins from webstaurantstore.  That shows just how committed we are to using that particular baby pie tin.  It is just like tattooing your spouse’s name on your left ring finger instead of wearing a wedding ring because you are just so convinced that you’ll never need or want that tattoo removed.  It is commitment PLUS.

And so you know what is coming next, right?

Our shipment of tins arrived last week and as soon as I opened the box, the tins looked different.  They were packaged differently and upon closer inspection, they were actually about 1/2 an inch deeper than our standard tin.  And while a half an inch seems like a very small difference, it basically renders obsolete our pie press and our method of pre-measuring the amount of dough for each tin.

After a quick consultation with webstaurantstore.com (complete with measurements and photographic comparison), the customer service specialist promised to ship out the correct tins immediately…even at no-cost overnight shipping.  MUSIC TO MY EARS.  And when our FedEx guy showed up the next morning, we heralded the box of new tins with a small ticker tape parade.  Except when we opened the box, the new tins were identical to the tins that we were returning.  BECAUSE THEY WERE STILL THE WRONG TINS.

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And this time when I called back webstaurantstore.com, I was decidedly more shouty and less patient than the day before.  Especially when the person asserted over and over again that the tins shipped were identical to the previous 10,000 tins that have been shipped to our storefront over the last 10 months.  EXCEPT THEY ARE NOT THE SAME TINS.

I spent some time researching our elusive tins on the Internet and learned that beyond webstaurantstore.com, our only other option is to order directly from the manufacturer.  And they are super excited to help, if we want to order 25,000 tins at once.  And I don’t because I don’t have a spare $22,000 in cash or a small warehouse to store them in.  That is why middleman retailers like webstaurant.com make business doable for so many small businesses…but it only works when they ship you the product they advertise.

So…I’ve somehow ended up in a stalemate with a company whose name I have trouble spelling.  They assure me that the tins we received are identical to the thousands of tins we’ve received before.  I’ve assured them that based on conventional measurement, the tins are not the same. They say we are wrong.  We say that are wrong.

I think after we achieve World Pie Domination, I’ll start a side business of supplying our own pie tins.  For sanity’s sake.

In Case…

  1. In case you were wondering, I spent the better part of an afternoon on the Internet desperately trying to convince myself with research that The Kroenke Group’s invoice for $44,000 in sweeping charges was something other than actual sweeping with a broom.  No such luck.
  2. In case you were wondering, we’ve spied no sweeping at 3601 Buttonwood over the course of the last few days.  Or ever.
  3. In case you were wondering, the only way I would consider paying my .096% pro rata share of the $44,000 sweeping bill is if Dick Van Dyke himself showed up in the parking lot at PJP and sang the “Chim Chim Cheree” sweeping song from Mary Poppins solely for my enjoyment.Mary-Poppins-mv16
  4. In case you were wondering, I’ll stop talking about the Great Sweeping Incident of 2015 now.  Unless you want to email me to talk about it.  Or text me.  Or tweet me.  Or Facebook me.  Or Instagram me.  Or come visit me In Real Life.
  5. In case you were wondering, we took our PJP Tasting Party on the road last week to see our friends at SuretyBonds.com.  We visited their home office to hang with 24 super fun people who wanted to chill on a Friday afternoon with 15 different types of pies.  Just like our in-store events, we didn’t reveal the pie types until after everyone had eaten and made their guesses.  And in the best sort of party, the guests left completely stuffed and with enough leftover pie to last a week.  And we left with the dirty dishes and 24 new friends.  We are calling this whole concept the PJP Roadshow.
  6. In case you were wondering, I have Uptown Funk stuck in my head.  And the saddest thing is that most people who enjoy that song aren’t even old enough to remember that Michelle Pfeiffer was at her peak as Stephanie Zinone in Grease 2.  And I’m sorry but Cool Rider is cinematic gold. tumblr_nernfiNy7l1slj0sxo3_500
  7. In case you were wondering, making our weekly To-Do list is keeping us marginally on target with our goals.  Approximately 61% of last week’s goals were accomplished and considering one of those goals was “stay focused”, we deem it a marginal success.
  8. In case you were wondering, we have a number of PJP baking parties on the books for the coming weekends and it made us think about the masses that want to hang out with us and drink wine and bake pie on an average Friday night (and by masses, I mean all three or four of you).  So on March 13th, make plans with your very favorite person to bake pie, drink wine, and hang out at PJP.  Bring a person you love.  Bring a person you hope loves you.  Bring a person who knows the worst about you and loves you anyway.  Bring a person who loves you and is willing to text you all day about the merits of different dry shampoos, Mr. Big, 6th grade math, childhood homes, and someone who was mean to one of you in 1987.  (In case you were wondering, my bestie just smiled at this.)
  9. In case you were wondering, I used the word “analytics” today in conversation with Behind-The-Scenes-Tech Guru Jason.  Three hours later, he is still mumbling “I can’t believe you said ‘analytics’.”  Between just you and I, neither can I.  Who am I becoming?
  10. In case you were wondering, you can find some other random thoughts I have about life, business, and whatnot on the Inside Columbia webpage.  You would think I would be all out of words after all this…but nope.

Instagram? Yes, Please.

I shared some thoughts last week about what makes social media work in a business.  And before you think I know anything about the subject, please know that on last Thursday alone, we gained four new Facebook fans, lost one, and had one person elect to unfollow all of our posts, but still be our fan.  And suffice it to say, I spent more time than socially acceptable thinking about those unlikes and in particular, the unfollow.  (On a side note, someone should totally create a Xanax vending machine that dispense JUST ONE to you in a 90 day period without a prescription.  Because I could have used it on Thursday.)

So, this is just my long way of saying that I couldn’t sleep on Thursday night.  Between obsessing about people I don’t know, people I do know, and 12 other things that likely don’t even matter, I found myself listening to “Not Ready to Make Nice” by The Dixie Chicks eight or 15 times in a row and updating apps to my new iPhone 6…because that is relaxing at 12:45 am, right?  As the new Instagram update loaded, I decided to commit some time to learning how Instagram works for business.

In full disclosure, my baseline Instagram knowledge is limited.  I know that all THE KIDS these days (hint:  people 25 and under) prefer Instagram to Facebook.  I know it is the preferred social media medium for posting an artistic photo of your dinner.  I know that whomever invented flattering filters for photos that instantly make you look younger and thinner should be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize immediately.

Two hours after logging into the PJP account, I want seven new puppies, a labor intensive manicure, and a ticket to Paris immediately.  In short, I TOTALLY GET THE INSTAGRAM ADDICTION.  Like a compelling twist of Facebook and Pinterest, Instagram is my spirit animal.  By its very nature, you can look through endless streams of photos without providing any sort of commentary.  Search for #pies on Instagram and find 1,930,444 different pictures.  Search for #pieishome and find 22 different pictures.

As I started to add pictures to the PJP Instagram account, I felt like I could be a little less formal in what goes out via Instagram rather than Facebook or Twitter.  On a daily basis, I think of something or see something and really have to work through whether that would be a good Facebook post…would people like it?  Would the tone come across as anticipated?  If I post twice in one day, will someone roll their eyes and unfollow us?  (Clearly, the answer to the last question is YES.)

But here is the thing…Instagram is decidedly more low-key.  I like that I can simply like someone’s picture without providing my “SO CUTE!!!” commentary.

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While this likely isn’t something that I would post to Facebook because the audience that will appreciate it is probably a bit more esoteric than our 2,635 Facebook fans.  But yet, in terms of branding our image, this is pretty spot on to how both Jeanne and I think on occasion.  Maybe Mindy Kaling is my spirit animal, come to think of it.

If you want to check out my margarita selfies, find us on Instagram at “Peggy Jean’s Pies.”  No, Jeanne doesn’t understand how it all works (her feelings on the topic are “Insta-Who?”)…but my feelings are pretty clear, because it is like Instagram already knows me…

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Righteous Indignation 2015

Prepare yourselves for my first righteously indignant post of 2015.

In today’s mail, we received a bill from The Kroenke Group for $1,224.97 for “CAM and Insurance” adjustments.  And because our monthly Triple Net & Rent includes our portion for the insurance on the commercial building (that we don’t own, ahem), I assumed this was one of those weird bills you get this time of year that isn’t really a bill, just a statement to tell you where all your money went for 2014.  EXCEPT IT WAS A LEGITIMATE BILL.  The $1,224.97 is our portion of our yearly shortfall for insurance and monthly maintenance.

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The bill also included an itemized listing of the expenses for the Rock Bridge Shopping Center in 2014.  Please sit down before you read any further:

  1. Maintenance and Repair $127,710.28
  2. Electricity $14,888
  3. Refuse $998.68
  4. Canopy Light $6,267.00
  5. Landscaping $19,272.25
  6. Sweeping $45,441.25
  7. Mowing $14,746.43
  8. Asphalt Repair $20,791
  9. Snow Removal $50,082.65
  10. Striping $5,725
  11. Roof Repairs $3,172.06
  12. Custodial Service $21,787.50
  13. Security Line $1,770.45
  14. Storm Sewer $1,177.48
  15. Labor Cost $2,543.72
  16. TKG Office Management Expenses $9,100

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My absolute favorite part of the bill was the itemized listing for “Holiday Decorations / $0.00″  So, essentially what this statement tells me is that we have holiday wreaths from 1967 and yet, the annual bill for sweeping is $45,441.25.  And someone please email me immediately and tell me that the “sweeping” on the bill isn’t the sort of sweeping you do with a broom because $45K buys A LOT OF BROOMS.  Also, I’ve never seen anyone sweep our parking lot or sidewalks.  Ever.  And every single morning, we vacuum our outdoor rug to get rid of the stray dryer lint dust from the dry cleaners and I feel like if I’m paying $21,787.50 for generic custodial service, we should get a day off from that now and then.  Or maybe we should get to meet the custodian.  Also?  I would like a pamphlet on the security line.  And I know I’m getting on my soapbox, but we had enough snow in 2014 to warrant $50,000 worth of removal?  Are you getting my righteous indignation vibe quite yet?

I’m sure the requirement that we pay these additional charges were buried somewhere deep in our lease agreement and in my zeal to start World Pie Domination, I skimmed right on over it.  (I like to think though that if there were an extra charge for sweeping, I would have noticed.)

All that said, I would be highly supportive of letting Silent Stan pay it all since HE OWNS THE PROPERTY and I would guess these items are the cost of doing business in the world of commercial real estate.  And if we are all going to share in the costs, then perhaps our rent should just be raised to compensate for it…it is much better than getting a pricey bill during the slowest retail time of the year.

Just saying.

 

 

300 Days.

Here we are at the 10 month mark of PJP Buttonwood.  And I’m starting to worry that even five years from now, I’ll be compelled to mark each milestone in terms of months.  As in “oh, PJP is 70 months old today…”

Here is what we know:

  1. Understanding the person you own a business with is an evolving process.  I know Jeanne…as in I KNOW HER.  I could walk into a store and buy her favorite lipstick and her favorite bottle of wine without calling to ask her either.  We can have an entire conversation by only looking at each other.  I can finish her sentences.  But I’m still learning about her thoughts about the quest to World Pie Domination.  And I’m never disappointed.
  2. Whatever we lack in competitive hourly pay and benefits plans, we make up for in snacks.FullSizeRender-37
  3. We excel at hosting a super fun party.  Or we excel at drinking wine and showing people how to bake a pie.  Either way.
  4. Jeanne does not care for playlists that feature all the hits from the 90s.  But turn on Peter, Paul, and Mary…
  5. We need someone to serve as our Director of Procurement.  The only qualification is that you don’t wait until we are on the last box/bag/sticker/pound of butter/pint of strawberries before noticing we need more.  Because if we are going to go that route, I can just keep the job.
  6. In effort to accomplish more, we’ve started making ourselves a weekly list and hanging it on the wall in the baking area.  And the only lesson learned here is that sometimes it takes a village into goading us into getting stuff done.FullSizeRender-38
  7. During the winter months, The Kroenke Group lays down enough salt melt in the parking lot and on the sidewalks to whittle away the polar ice cap.  I would guess the budget for salt melt pellets is 98.7% of our monthly common charges.
  8. Being super busy is 982% better than being super slow.  I’m super serious.
  9. Writing on hand pies in cursive dough letters is not in my wheelhouse.  But Jeanne is down with it all day long…FullSizeRender-39
  10. We would not be anything without the exceptionally kind love and support from THE BEST CUSTOMERS EVER.  One day, when I write the story of PJP, I’m dedicating it to you.