YOLO, FroYo…

If you happened by PJP Buttonwood today, you might have noticed a new addition to the front of the store…

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Jeanne and Dale were back in their woodworking space over the weekend and built this charming bench on a whim.  Much like most people say “oh, I think I’ll make a sandwich”…Jeanne says “oh, I think I’ll build a bench from scrap wood.”  Apparently, this wood was left over from her great display unit build in August and so making a bench for the space on the opposite wall just felt like “no big deal” and “really easy.”  I don’t have any clue what it takes to put a bench like that together, but I do know how glorious it is to have a space to sit in PJP Buttonwood, even if only for a few moments during the day.  And functionality aside, the bench adds a certain level of intimacy to the foyer that makes us happy.

Next on Jeanne’s list is a table top built out of reclaimed wood to rest on the whiskey barrels.  We would love to use that space as a display for our Jelly Jar pies and other items.  New today, we made a batch of the crumble topping that goes on the Peach Praline pie and filled quart canning jars with it to sell.  It is now possible for you to take home the crumble topping and do whatever you want with it.  And by “whatever you want”, I think I really mean “dump it on vanilla bean ice cream and eat while watching House Hunters.  Or eat it directly out of the jar with a spoon while watching House Hunters.

And while on the subject of ice cream, we’ve had quite a few customers ask if we sell ice cream in the store.  And it makes us want to buy a small freezer and stock it with flavors from local ice cream shops.  But we wonder what flavors?  Do we need an ice cream sommelier for proper pairing?  And would we just eat all the ice cream ourselves?  And before you think I’m kidding, we ate Orange Leaf for lunch three days in a row last week.  (If you think explaining “hashtag” to Jeanne is an onerous task, try explaining “FroYo”…or “YOLO” for that matter.)  And let me add here that I get a lot of emails from people who want to know how Jeanne and I decided to start a business together and whether I have any thoughts about determining the “right” person to partner in business with.  I think the short answer is that if your potential business partner can go to Orange Leaf and return with the correct blend of yogurt and all the toppings you love and none that you hate, well then, they might be the person to consider.  For example, if a person returned with my cup of FroYo and they covered it in fresh fruit, they would basically be dead to me.  A person who knows me well enough to partner in business with me knows that I prefer nothing but candy on top of my fat-free yogurt.  And hot fudge.

And now I feel like I should alert someone to my groundbreaking new strategy of business partner selection.  TED Talk?

This Is My Pot Pie…

You’ve likely gathered by now that Jeanne and I are fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants sort of women. We’ve been talking about adding savory pies to our menu for some time now and when last Friday proved to be chilly and rainy and the perfect harbinger of the autumn season to come, we looked at each other and said “hey, want to start pot pies today?”

A quick post to Facebook and Twitter alerting our fans and followers to savory pie availability and our phone started ringing.  (I started to say that our phone was ringing off the hook but then I realized phones don’t have hooks any longer and now how are we supposed to express demand to kids who only know the world of buttons on the iPhone 5?)  To make it easy, I’ll just tell you that we sold 61 chicken pot pies in less than an hour.  Honestly, we likely could have sold another 40 based on the phone calls that kept coming except that we had no more ingredients to make more and a baking schedule for sweet pies that demanded our attention.

We received a lot of positive comments from customers about the availability of pot pie.  We offered them baked and unbaked because we honestly didn’t know what customers would prefer.  (If you are curious, it was almost even between the baked vs. unbaked requests.)  And we got a lot of Facebook messages, emails, and phone calls about what the plan will be for pot pies.

And, uh…..

The problem with deciding to add a new product onto your menu based on a whim and some chilly weather is that when people ask you what the plan is for future pot pie availability, you realize that you don’t have a plan.  And so I made a note called “make a pot pie plan” on my Evernote app, vowing to discuss it with Jeanne over the weekend.  (I would guess this is not how it started for Colonel Sanders at the Kentucky Fried Chicken, by the way.)

And after seven minutes of intense thought and discussion earlier this evening, here is the plan…pot pie will be available on Thursdays and Fridays.  You must call to pre-order and indicate if you would like your pot pies to be baked or unbaked.  And just like that, with a simple phone call, you have dinner lunch or dinner planned.  Maybe this whole idea didn’t need months of planning, because I’m sorry, but who doesn’t like a freshly made pot pie?  Order extra so you don’t have to share…

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Validation, please…

Today we sampled a Bacon Dutch Apple pie to customers who visited PJP Buttonwood.  Overall, the reactions varied from “OMG…Yes, Please!” to “Meh” and everything in-between.  Jeanne has been on a bit of a creative streak over the last week, working on new ideas for fall pies.  And while this will likely make you jealous, I’ll tell you that we had an AH-MAZ-ING chicken pot pie for dinner tonight that she made this afternoon at PJP Buttonwood.  Our goal is to offer savory pies sooner rather than later and well, we needed to sample on ourselves first, right?

If we were pie billionaires, Jeanne would likely spend her days in the PJP Test Kitchen (housed inside the PJP Logistics building where coffee and white wine flow like water).  She would create and test new recipes for the possible addition to the PJP product line.  And while she measured away in her slung-up, no-dollar-spared commercial kitchen, I would spend my day writing for the blog, for a PJP cookbook, for a PJP memoir (tentatively titled “Who Is Hashtag Again?”  Collected Stories of Working With Your Mother), and for all things PJP social media while listening to The Avett Brothers and enjoying freshly brewed coffee prepared and delivered to me by someone besides myself.

While the test baking, the blogging, and the social media interaction is happening on a regular basis now, it certainly isn’t our main focus each day.  The main focus is how to plan, prepare, and bake enough pies to stock PJP Buttonwood each day…and that focus is relentless.  We feel the constant battle between our creative forces and the realistic demands of having enough pie in store to make our customers happy and our bills paid.  And none of this really means anything in particular except that it is notable that we are recognizing this tension…I think it means we are maturing in some way, no matter how small.

It would so very easy to make PJP our real-life playhouse of whatever we like to do all day…Jeanne baking and my writing until content.  Without question, falling down the rabbit hole of doing our favorite things in the name of doing them for the business is a temptation that is never far away.  Likewise, on the other end of the spectrum, baking pies with absolutely no focus on our creativity is a path just as dangerous.  And so like so many other things in our world, finding the right balance is key.

So how exactly do you strike the right balance?

 

 

 

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Seriously.  I have no idea.  We could add more staff and that staff could bake for the store while we pursued creative endeavors.  But more staff requires more payroll.  And more payroll requires more money.  And more money requires more sales and less expenses.  And less expenses requires less payroll.  And OH MY GOSH, I’M OVERWHELMED AND HAVE GIVEN MYSELF A HEADACHE AND I’M SHOUTING AT YOU.

So, I don’t have any answers.  I just wanted to give our musings some validation by giving them words and sending the out into the great void of the Internet where they will live on until someone reads this and understands exactly how we feel.

Imagine if I had all day to write about this.

 

 

Additional Postage Required

So, we have a super nice mailman at PJP.  And I’m sorry to tell you that I don’t even know what his name is and now it has just gone on too long to ask him without it being all awkward (and if he reads this blog, well then, I’ve just made it super awkward).  But we had an entire conversation last week about my not knowing what a stamp currently costs, so he probably doesn’t expect that much out of me to begin with.  (.49 cents?  .51 cents?  Does it even matter because the price will probably just increase again in a week or so.)

And my point here is that while our mailman is super nice, ALL HE BRINGS US IS BILLS.  Every time I see his little mail truck pull into the parking lot, my brain cues up that Destiny’s Child song “Bills, Bills, Bills”.  I don’t know who runs the marketing department for the United States Postal Service – and given their negative public image, maybe they don’t even have a marketing department – but an ad campaign featuring Beyonce and Kelly Rowland (and the poor third girl whose name no one ever remembers) singing “can you pay my automo’ bills?” while a postal worker delivers stacks of mail in rain, shine, and snow…well, that would make a lasting impact I think.  Because if the United States Postal System is built on anything, it is bills.  And credit card offers.

And maybe this is where a well-organized person would point out that we could pay everything online or perhaps we could plan for when things are due by using a calendar and to that person I say…you must not know us terribly well.  It is entirely possible that our Ameren UE check had a smudge of French Silk on it today because it crossed my mind that I needed to mail it today when I was adding the 11th egg to the mixture.  (Our accounting person reads this blog and she is probably laughing until she is crying right now or she is rocking back and forth while curled up in a fetal position in a corner.  On a side note, I actually responded to an email she sent me earlier in the week with “What?  I don’t even know what that means.”  Safe to say, she is at the front of the line of people who keep us out of jail.)

Does anyone want to send us a fun piece of mail?  Are you having a party?  If so, will you mail us an invite?  Do you like to send handwritten notes in a concerted effort to stop the demise of the personal letter?  If so, would you write us a note?  Do you have a “buy one, get one free” coupon for Starbucks that you aren’t using?  Mail it to us.  I think what I’m trying to say is that we are desperate for some mail that doesn’t require a response in the form of a check.  Bonus points for brightly colored envelopes.  Double bonus points for one of those audio cards that opens and plays a Destiny’s Child tune.

 

Food This Exit…

For some time now, I’ve had a note to add PJP to those “FOOD THIS EXIT” signs that are on interstates and highways across the country…

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Each time I pass a sign similar to this on Highway 63 at the AC Exit, I envision the PJP logo pointing our customers to our location a mere three miles from the highway.  And finally, today I took the time to figure out just how to make it happen.

I started my quest on the Missouri Department of Transportation website and searched for information…finding none (likely because I didn’t really know what I was looking for…do they call it “food exit” signs?).  There is a lot of information about “adopting a highway” and while I’m supportive of community service, I’ll pass on picking up cigarette butts, soda cups, soiled diapers, and whatever else people throw out on the side of the road.  (Though major props to people nice enough to participate in the program…way way way nicer than me).

Frustrated, I filled out the quick contact form on the MoDOT website and when I clicked submit, I guessed that a response would come about as quickly as it takes the transportation department to finally widen Interstate 70 through Boone County (i.e. NEVER).  So imagine my surprise when an email arrives in my inbox 12 minutes later.  And not an automated response…an actual email from an actual human at MoDOT (let’s all pretend that all the dollars we pay in sales tax and transportation tax made that human response possible).  The email included a link to the company that makes and manages those signs – Missouri Interstate Logos (http://www.missouri.interstatelogos.com/state/home.aspx).

Is this the part where you think I’m going to say the process is seamless and you should expect to see the PJP logo on a sign near you in the immediate future?  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA.  Turns out, we don’t even qualify to be on the sign.  Of course.

To be eligible, you need:

  • To be in continuous operation 12 hours a day;
  • Serve two meals a day, seven days a week;
  • Provide restroom facilities for the traveling public;
  • Provide a public telephone.

Also, there is a $1,500 fee for those that do qualify.

Interesting, no?  The whole “public telephone” thing makes me think that whomever wrote these rules wrote them in 1991.  Also, now I have that Lady Gaga featuring Beyonce song “Telephone” stuck in my head.

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I would be more accepting of the PJP exclusion if I felt like the rules for qualification made any logical sense.  But shouldn’t the point of the sign be to alert motorists to all sorts of different places where you can buy food?  And actually, don’t most of those restrictions lend themselves to promoting chain restaurants that have the financial and physical labor resources to be open 12 hours a day, seven days a week?  So what about directing potential customers to local, independent businesses in the cities and towns throughout Missouri?  No signs for that?  Sadly, that means that we all miss out on discovering some of the unique and wonderful small businesses in our state.  But we can always find a Subway.

 

PS…today is Jeanne’s birthday.  Let me tell you that if you are going to be on a journey to world pie domination, Jeanne Plumley is the only person in the world to do it with.  She is basically one of the most awesome people in this world and she deserves the most awesome things in return.  As a bonus, if you stop by PJP Buttonwood tomorrow and tell her “Happy Birthday”, you’ll receive 61 cents off every item you buy.

Labor Day.

Labor Day marked the one year anniversary of the inception of PJP V. 2.0.  A mere 375 days or so ago, I likely would have laughed if you suggested a year later we would be baking and selling pies in a retail location.  I know that sounds sort of ridiculous to you long-term planners, but it is the true and honest story of PJP.  And so now that Labor Day 2014 has come and gone, I feel like we’ve passed some sort of milestone in the PJP timeline.  The kind of milestone that doesn’t come with a Hallmark card or a bouquet of flowers, but the kind of milestone that can’t go unobserved either.

So, let me set the scene for you of Labor Day 2013.  Behind-The-Scenes-Tech-Guru Jason, our kids, Jeanne, and I were wasting a Sunday afternoon on our boat at the Lake.  While I can’t recall all the specific the details of that afternoon, I can bet you that rafts for the kids and vodka-based cocktails for the adults were involved.  At some point in the fun, our now Vice-President of Box Assembly said to Jeanne:  “Mawmaw, I think you should do your pies again.  You should get a food truck.”  And Jeanne, because she indulges all pieces of advice from 10-year-olds, agreed that wasn’t a bad idea at all.  And Behind-The-Scenes-Tech-Guru Jason and I completely ignored them both.

Except when we got home, they both immediately begin to research food trucks on eBay and Craigslist.  Everything seemed too expensive or too junky or too something and it didn’t really matter because they were basically just laughing at their finds.  And then none of us discussed it for a week or so until Jeanne casually mentioned to me on the phone that if we were going to bake pies, we would need a commercial kitchen because food truck kitchens are too small for baking.  Did I want to go look at possible retail location?  And because I’m always up for a good time, I said ok.  And 360-ish days later, I write this for you while our 1,050 square feet of retail location hums away quietly in the night, waiting for us to begin baking early in the morning.  So if you are looking for the part about writing business plans, researching trends in bakery sales, and spending days shopping for the best deal on commercial insurance, well…you won’t find that story in this blog.  But if you are curious about whether you can turn your entire life upside in the most challenging, surprising and wonderful ways within the span of a year, then our story is the one you’ve been waiting to read.

 

Team PJP Expands…

We are thrilled to announce that Team PJP has expanded by three over the course of the past week and we couldn’t be more excited about it.  Here might be where the average business owner rants about the difficulty of finding great people to work with, but we’ve found that this is one area that we don’t struggle with…we sorta think everyone we invite to Team PJP is basically amazing.

I posted a picture to Facebook earlier today and thus confirmed the rumors that we’ve welcomed a male to PJP.  Meet Mitch…

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Mitch is a student at Mizzou and is studying International Business.  He is also in the National Guard and missed a semester of school because he was in Basic Training, which already makes him 100% more brave and admirable than I could ever hope to be.  He has already proven himself completely immune to all of our incessant chatter about nothing at all.  On his first day at PJP, we were having a complete breakdown about how to hot glue ribbons to jelly jars and he was UNFAZED.  He just measured and cut ribbon and told us at various intervals that the jars were looking nice, pretty much sealing the deal as our favorite first male employee ever.

Our second new employee is Sydney.  Here is a fun fact about Sydney…she was the first newborn baby I’d ever held.  And now she is a freshman at Mizzou.  And just typing that makes me feel one billion years old.  She is studying nursing and is in the Marching Mizzou Color Guard and is pretty much your basic delight to hang out with.  And because she is one week into her freshman year, we are pretty much staking claim in her for the next four years.  And then however long nursing school is.  And then maybe we can convince her to stay and work part-time when she is a nurse.  I think what I’m trying to say is she is a great addition to Team PJP and we want to keep her forever.

And finally, we’ve welcomed Ashrah to our Saturday morning PJP experience!  Ashrah is a student at Hickman High School.  She is only available on Saturdays and if you have stopped by PJP Buttonwood on a Saturday to find either Jeanne or I there alone, you know that having consistent Saturday help can only mean good things.  Ashrah came highly recommended and when we met her for the first time, we knew within .04 seconds that we liked her.  We are already convincing her to go to Mizzou so that we can have her locked in to us for the next six to eight years.

So that is the scoop on the new faces of PJP.  Plan to stop by and meet them all soon!