Heidi Hammer is known for her pies.
Initially a treat she baked for a select few, the demand for her sweets turned her skill into a business.
These days, her pies are stocked on grocery store shelves and her company is expanding just to keep up with requests. Despite facing more established pie makers such as Whidbey Pies at Greenbank Farm, the Langley resident has carved out a slice of success all her on her own.
“I started in my own kitchen baking them for friends and family, and they kept telling me ‘You’ve got to sell these,’” Hammer said. “Once I started doing that, everyone wanted to know when they could start picking them up at the store, and I wasn’t sure that’d ever happen. Then the stores started calling me.”
Hammer’s company, Wild Crow Pies, makes roughly 25 handmade organic pies per day. The small number is reflection of her small staff, which only includes two recently-hired employees working out of the South Whidbey Community Center at the former middle school campus. The employees were hired as soon as Hammer’s company moved into its new location this past Tuesday. The tripling of her workforce is a sign her pies are in demand, as individual customers, restaurants and grocery stores all regularly request a few of her pies.
Hammer still delivers many of them straight out of the oven, something Miriah Ferguson, bakery manager at The Goose, says isn’t common these days.
Wild Crow Pies is hyper local. Using various types of locally-grown organic fruit, Hammer makes pies that she says are different from the “generic” pies such as apple, cherry and pumpkin. Some of her sweets have flavors specific to the Pacific Northwest and vary by season, depending on what fruit is available. Essentially, success is in the fruit for Hammer and her team, as they don’t use artificial sweeteners. As she says, “your pie is only as good as the fruit in it.”
Offering an array of local fruit flavors has proved a successful business model for the company.
“First things first, her pies are just awesome,” Ferguson said. “She has a variety of pies that others don’t offer, like marrionberry and lingonberry. Variety is definitely a selling point for her company.”
Hammer started from the kitchen of former Langley restaurant Mike’s Place about 10 years ago. Hammer worked as a baker at the time, and used the kitchen to make delectable pies for her family and friends upon request. Once the restaurant closed, Hammer decided to keep on baking out of her personal kitchen and delivered warm pies straight to her customers’ doors. It was only a weekend and nighttime activity, since she began working for an optometrist shortly after her stint at Mike’s Place.
Yet the requests kept coming, and she kept pumping out the pies. She realized this could be a career path as a small business owner.
“After working in the medical field for five or six years, I really wanted to do something I loved,” Hammer said. “I remember working a 14-hour day once, and when I got home I thought to myself it was time to open my pie business.”
Although Hammer didn’t previously have business ownership experience, she was confident her localized sweets would survive on South Whidbey, a community she says loves to support local products. She also didn’t think what she was making was a hard sell, as pies “naturally bring people together.”
If her recent expansion is any indication, she was right.
“People have a real love affair with pie, it’s just a really American thing,” Hammer said. “It’s never going to be something that goes out of style. People will always love pie, I’m just baking them.”