Stillwater business grabs attention
Sara Hayden isn’t getting much rest these days.
The Oak Park Heights resident and small business owner is too busy trying to keep up with demand for her latest alcohol-infused pie at the Minnesota State Fair.
Stillwater-based Sara’s Tipsy Pies introduced a new menu item at the fair this year — brown ale and onion-gouda pie — and customers can’t seem to get enough.
“I didn’t expect this pie to be so popular, frankly,” Hayden said.
This is Hayden’s third year selling at the Great Minnesota Get-Together, and she made 1,900 of the new pies, expecting them to last all 12 days of the fair. After all, there are other pies on the menu.
All 1,900 pies sold out in two days.
She began making 800 pies a night, and by the second week of the fair, she set up day and night shifts with her small staff.
Since late last year, the company’s pies have been produced at a facility behind Valley Ridge Mall in Stillwater (2000 Industrial Blvd.). Prior to that, Hayden made them at the Marine General Store in Marine on St. Croix, where they’re still available for sale.
“They’re gaining popularity like crazy,” said Merry Domke, the deli manager and chef at the Marine General Store and a friend of Hayden. “People love the fact that … it’s a family pie crust recipe. … If we don’t have them in the case, they let us know, and they come here expecting to get them.”
Hayden has a degree in counseling, but what she really wanted to do was be a stay-at-home mom to her five children. When the last of them went to kindergarten, however, she started looking for a job.
She’d always loved baking, which reminded her of her mother, who had died recently. In 2011, she began baking at Fresh Fields, a bakery and cafe in Stillwater at the time.
“Rustic Pies of Stillwater was created through Fresh Fields, pretty much,” Hayden said, crediting the owner, Dave Michaud, with helping her start the business.
Then she attended a Great Stillwater Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon about how to find your niche and make your business stand out. That’s when she had the idea of adding alcohol to her pies — hence the new name, Sara’s Tipsy Pies.
She reached out to Lift Bridge Brewing Co. and began using their Chestnut Hill brown ale. Now she uses other Minnesota beers, whiskeys and wines, as well.
In addition to the State Fair, Sara’s Tipsy Pies sells its handmade pastries at farmers markets, caters weddings and has a wholesale business. Hayden’s products can be found in about 80 locations. In September, she said the pies available in stores will be larger portions but the same price.
But the fair is special to Hayden.
“It’s such a privilege to be here,” she said. “Thanks to the fair, our revenue, of course, changed, and it opened up a lot more business for us. … The State Fair has really given me the ability to stay ahead of the game a little bit and be a little bit more strategic with finances.”
Domke said customers at the Marine General Store often mention that they tried them at the fair.
For the State Fair this year Hayden decided to try something new.
“For six years all I’ve heard is, “Is that a savory pie?’” Hayden said. “People want a savory pie. I decided I was finally going to make a savory pie and launch it at the State Fair.”
She returned to Lift Bridge’s Chestnut Hill ale to create the brown ale onion and gouda pie that has become a hit.
Asked if it will return for next year’s fair, she said it’s too early to know what will happen, but she’d ideally like to offer two savory pies and two sweet pies at the fair.
There’s still time to try the pie this year — Sara’s Tipsy Pies is on the south end of the Food Building at the State Fair, which runs through Sept. 4.
Asked if she’ll rest when the fair ends, Hayden said she won’t have much time.
“It’s wedding season,” she said. “And we’re going to be in the Renaissance Festival.”
Plus there’s Stillwater’s Harvest Fest and other events to prepare for.
“I’ll rest in December,” she said.
For more information on Sara’s Tipsy Pies, go to sarastipsypies.com.
Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]