Very few baking recipes call for 2,000 pounds of sugar, but for Kathy McCauley and Terri Weyland-Henecke, that is just business as usual.
During the week of Thanksgiving, the sisters — who are co-owners of Kathy’s Pies — and their crew churn through a ton of sugar, 500 pounds of both liquid eggs and flour, and hundreds of pounds of various fruits and chocolates in the process of baking more than 6,000 pies.
“This does make our year,” said Weyland-Henecke. “We do not make a lot of money during the year, we kind of break even. This is our month to make all of our money.”
The bakery on 5th Avenue is running full-steam in order to satisfy Cedar Rapid’s holiday sweet tooth. Many employees will put in 16-hour days during the week of Thanksgiving, but while the hours are long, every worker diligently measures, rolls, fills and bakes each and every pie.
“We just have a great group here,” McCauley said. “Everybody knows we have a big job to do and knows the quicker we get things turned over, the quicker we get done.”
But the sheer volume of baked goods poses problems that cannot be solved by a little extra elbow grease.
The bakery is not equipped with enough freezer space to store all of the season’s stock, which forced McCauley to look for outside support. Four years ago, she found it.
“The flood waters were rising downtown and like everyone, [Kathy’s Pies] were panicking and said they had to evacuate immediately,” said Bill Aossey Sr., the retired director of Midamar, a Cedar Rapids-based domestic and international food distributor. “I said just bring it out, it will not cost anything, under circumstances of flooding you don’t take advantage of people.”
Since then, Kathy’s Pies has had a free spot in Midamar’s food storage facility to house their Thanksgiving overflow.
But even with outside help from companies such as Midamar, Kathy’s Pies still needs to place a call to every able-bodied family member to aid in the Thanksgiving sugar rush.
“We bring in everybody,” said Weyland-Henecke. “And then on the day of Thanksgiving or the day before when we are cranking out a couple thousand pies for people coming in and picking them up, we have husbands, brothers, brother’s best friends, they all come in to run pies.”
That commitment to making quality pies quickly is something that has kept Marion resident John Cram returning to Kathy’s for the past 15 years for his holiday pies.
“They are delicious,” Cram said, who is purchasing seven pies for this Thanksgiving. “I will go down there Thursday morning to get my pies, there is a line around the building, but you won’t stand out there for more than ten minutes. They are so efficient.”
And while many visit Kathy’s for their special occasion sweets, one Fairfax resident has been dropping by almost every day for the past three years.
“Years ago, my folks were homebound at the time,” said Fairfax resident John Wagner. “They are not the richest people, but they loved pies, so every Saturday I would take them a custard pie.”
Since then, Wagner has transitioned to purchasing cookies for coworkers, he brings a daily dose of pudding to his mother who is now in an assisted living facility, and he doesn’t skip a chance to give a Kathy’s Pies gift card for a birthday or holiday.
“Kathy says I pay her light bill,” said Wagner, who estimates his total bill at Kathy’s Pies is well into the thousands of dollars. “I don’t know if that is true, but pie is love, at least for me. It is a way to tell people I care.”
Kathy’s Pies sales during the week of Thanksgiving 2011: