Business owner feels they’ve ‘piefected’ winning strategy

Paisley Standage, 4, shoves a whipped cream pie in Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke’s face during a fundraiser for the Ukrainian Children’s Relief Fund May 13 at PIEfection in Chandler, Arizona. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

Cheryl Standage said one of the biggest challenges to starting a pie business in the East Valley was the parent company’s commitment to variety.

PIEfection is known for have the largest selection of pies but most of their customers are not ordering in advance: They want them fresh, and great tasting, when they walk in to pick it up.

“It was very difficult when we first opened,” Standage said.

She staged a grand opening for her newest location in Chandler on May 13. It is her third location, joining stores in Mesa and Scottsdale and a fourth in Queen Creek is expected to open in late summer.

Standage said the key to success is having a huge variety and having the pies ready to go when customers walk in knowing what they want.

“We know exactly how many pies we’re going to sell, for example, in Mesa or Scottsdale on any given day,” she said. “We know what the percentage of banana cream, that percentage of coconut cream, and then we also overproduce.

“I would rather throw some pies away and make sure I can meet my customers’ needs. Taking an order is a hassle for the customer, it’s a hassle for us. You have to have a lot of space to track orders and to take orders and it takes a lot of manpower. So I can overproduce pies and make it happen more than if I were to take orders.”

Standage started the company in 2012 after a career in corporate America that began in human resources and ended managing 250 people in banking.

“I left that job and I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Standage said, adding that since finding an opportunity to open PIEfection in Mesa, “it’s been an amazing ride.”

As part of the grand opening event in Chandler, Standage asked Mayor Kevin Hartke to take multiple pies in the face for charity. The money raised went to benefit the Ukrainian Children’s Relief Fund.

“My nephew spent two years in Ukraine,” Standage said. “He was talking to me about it and I said we will definitely hold a fundraiser for this organization; 100% of the proceeds go to the Ukrainian children. There’s no overhead, there’s no administration, and those are the kinds of fundraisers that I like to do.”

The pie business is working out well for Standage. She said the key their great pies, with everything homemade using the freshest ingredients. She said her Mesa and Scottsdale stores sold 20,000 pies last year for Thanksgiving.

She took a quick look at the numbers at mid-day on the day before Mother’s Day, and pronounced, “We’re killing it.”

Standage said with four locations open by the time Thanksgiving comes this year, they will need to bring in extra staff and start baking pies sooner.

“We’re getting really nervous,” she said. “We had a swing shift crew last year, they came in and worked four until midnight. We’re going to have to add a third crew.”

If a customer wants a pie that isn’t on the menu, they will make it. Customers need to call 24 hours in advance. But with more than 70 pies on the menu, coming up with one might be a challenge.

In addition to pies, PIEfection offers quiche and savory pies, which are made at the Mesa store because it has a bigger kitchen. Some of the savory pies include: Italian beef pot pie, pizza pot pie, chicken enchilada pot pie and Philly cheesesteak.

But other than that, they stick to mostly traditional, sweeter pies.

“We focus on one thing, and we want to do it better than anybody else,” Standage said.

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