The following story was written by Heinen’s partner Alex Miles.
If you have your eyes on the pies, check out one of our favorite brands: Mama Jo Pies. A third-generation family business, Mama Jo bakes every pie from scratch; there’s no added fluff, fillers or preservatives. Here are a few more reasons we’re so passionate about these freshly-baked, homemade pies.
Filled with Family
Like Heinen’s, Mama Jo Pies is a family business that’s been passed down from one generation to the next. Before it became an official business, Mama Jo’s mother, Shirley Sterk, and her sisters baked pies for local nursing homes, family and friends. As word spread, requests poured in for the scrumptious pies.
“People craved pies that weren’t for sale yet – my grandma only baked them on demand in the family’s pizza shop,” said Jenna Rabosyuk, President of Mama Jo Pies. “Finally, my mom (aka Mama Jo) and her brother, Peter, decided to open the first official shop. They knew it would be a homerun.”
The young pie business first planted roots in Vermillion, Ohio in 1993. The timing was perfect; a large Ford manufacturing plant operated down the road and increased foot traffic to the store. Sales skyrocketed from $0 to $1 million in one year. After a few years of continued success, Mama Jo moved the store to a 14,000 square foot space in Amherst, Ohio.
Jenna adds, “My first memories of the store followed the move from Vermillion to Amherst. During Thanksgiving – our prime sales period – my mom would pull me out of school so I could work the register or put stickers on the pie boxes. It was a great way to learn the business.”
Today, Jenna and her brother Ken (Mama Jo’s children) carry on the family’s pie-baking legacy. Now a third-generation business, it’s safe to say that Mama Jo Pies won’t slow down anytime soon.
Tried and True Ingredients
Under strong leadership, Mama Jo Pies has continued to grow, attracting loyal customers and wholesalers. While expansion often leads many brands to take shortcuts or identify scalable production methods, Mama Jo Pies honors the original baking principles adopted by Grandma decades ago.
“People love our pies, so we don’t feel the need to change our recipes or move at a faster pace,” said Jenna. “We bake from scratch and taste test all of our fruits in house. This ensures that we always deliver the quality our customers expect and deserve.”
Every morning, starting at 5 a.m., a team of bakers rolls into the Mama Jo’s bakery to prepare fresh pies, plus other cookies, strudels and pastries. Every part of the pie – whether it’s the dough for the crust or the fruits for filling – is carefully handled to ensure a premium product.
“Our pies don’t sit in a freezer– we always bake to order, meaning they’re made, sold and delivered on the same day,” explains Jenna. “We don’t go out of our way to ensure a pie will last for days. We bake with the intention that our customers will buy fresh – and eat fresh.”
Half Science, Half Art
The phrase “as easy as pie” doesn’t resonate with Mama Jo Pies. Why? Because baking a homestyle pie is anything but simple.
“It’s way more of a science than most people realize,” said Jenna. “Baking requires precise ingredients, measurements and timing. You can only master these components by working in the bakery and following the recipe for success.”
That said, pie baking is an art, too.
“Customers expect pies to look edible and appetizing. But most of all, they crave an authentic, ‘Grandma’s homestyle look,” explains Jenna. “It’s a careful balance – you need each pie to look nice but not so cookie-cutter that it resembles every other pie out there. Slight imperfections make each pie special.”
Impress Your Guests
Mama Jo offers an assortment of pies that pair with celebratory meals. Their assortment of scrumptious pies just for Heinen’s customers including French Silk, Boston Crème, Lemon Meringue and Sweet Potato. These varieties, combined with Mama Jo’s perfect flakey crust, are sure to have your guests reaching for at least one slice. But probably more!
“We’ve been working with Heinen’s for more than 20 years,” shared Jenna. “They appreciate the fact that we’re a local, family-owned small business and know our quality remains unmatched. It’s refreshing to work with a partner that shares the same values.”
No matter the celebration, remember to pick up your Mama Jo Pies from Heinen’s Bakery!