“My mom is the real pie baker in the family,” said Traci Wilbur, owner of Pie Snob, an Arcadia-area pie business.
Traci, a mother of two and longtime Arcadia resident, is soft spoken and humble when talking of her success. Her list of awards from the annual Phoenix New Times Pie Social, as well as the 600 (and sometimes more) pies she bakes each Thanksgiving, speak for themselves. Yet, she still gives most of the credit to her mom and her grandmother.
Traci remembers her grandmother as the “great family cook.” Her mother was an expert in pies. She made apple, lemon meringue and boysenberry.
“I use my mom’s apple pie recipe,” said Traci. “But hers is still better. I tease her that I think she left something out on purpose when she shared the recipe with me.”
There is one childhood memory, however, that taught Traci that sometimes time in the kitchen is a labor of love.
“When I was a kid, I was amazed when my mom would make lemon meringue pie. I remember thinking, ‘I’m not ever going to make that; it’s too much work.’”
It’s been almost eight years since this Arcadia resident decided to turn a family recipe into a business. The community that surrounds her couldn’t be more supportive.
When Arcadia News recently posted on Facebook asking readers about their favorite local pie, the response was overwhelming for Traci, the city’s favorite pie snob.
And as it turns out, there is more to this sweet story than just flaky crust and perfectly pinched pie corners.
“I stayed home with my kids when they were younger and when they started school full time, I just thought, ‘Hmm, maybe I should get a job,’” said Traci.
Known in her circles as someone who frequently baked, a friend mentioned that instead of getting a typical job, Traci should email a list of friends and offer to make pies for the holidays.
Word of mouth spread fast.
After the first year, pie orders began coming in during the spring and summer, rather than just during the fall and winter holidays.
“I started to get big enough that I knew I might be able to open this up past just my friends,” said Traci. “We started looking for commercial kitchens to rent.”
The Arizona Home Baked and Confectionery Goods Program allows Arizona residents to sign up and become authorized to produce products for commercial purposes. The program requires a food handler card, registration with the state, and puts restrictions on what can be made at home and where the homemade items can be sold.
Concerned that Pie Snob would soon outgrow the Home Baked Goods Program, finding a space to expand was a priority. Locating such a kitchen proved more difficult than expected.
“At that time, trying to find a commercial kitchen in the area that wasn’t too big and had what we needed was nearly impossible,” said Traci.
What they didn’t know at the time was what they were looking for had been right in front of them (or actually behind them) all the time.
“My husband mentioned his workroom might be the right space and because he’s always worked in construction and building, he was able to do the work to build what we needed,” said Traci.
For the past six years, sitting just slightly behind her home has been a carefully crafted commercial kitchen, designed and built by the man who knew a hobby was growing rapidly into a phenomenon.
And now, Pie Snob not only provides the community with decadent slices of rich custard, cream and fruit-filled pies, but they also offer a space for other bakers to establish themselves.
Commercially zoned and regularly checked by the health department, Traci’s kitchen is stocked with everything any area chef needs. When Pie Snob isn’t using the kitchen, other companies are welcome to sign up and rent the space.
“We are able to offer the space that I was once looking for,” said Traci.
The kitchen is ideal for any baker. For Traci, having it in her own backyard makes it a family affair.
“During the holidays, everyone works,” Traci laughed. “My daughters fold boxes and walk pies out to people waiting, my mom, dad, sister, mother-in-law – they all work.”
Standing in her stainless steel kitchen, with beautiful subway tile lining the walls and the retro, checkered floor adding distinct character to the space, it’s as if Traci belongs in this exact spot, cranking a handmade apple peeler and rallying the troops to get the holiday baking done.
“If I only could have known how many apples I would peel in my life,” Traci laughed.
The holiday season will ramp up quickly, with orders coming in rapidly for, as Traci calls it, the holiday trifecta: pecan, apple and pumpkin pies.
“It isn’t pies that stress me out during the holidays,” said Traci. “The stress is in not wanting to ruin someone’s Thanksgiving. People invest in me. They trust me to be part of their meal.”
Apple pie might be the quintessential American dessert, but getting one from the Pie Snob has become an Arcadia tradition.
A tradition Traci Wilbur is honored to be a part of.