LISA’S PIE SHOP: TRY IT, YOU WILL LIKE IT
By Mike May
Delicious and delectable. That’s the best way to describe the taste of the 28 types of pies which are created, baked, and sold by Lisa’s Pie Shop, a free-standing retail outlet in Atlanta, Indiana, a small town located about an hour’s drive north Indianapolis. If you like pie for dessert, then you will be spoiled and delighted by the wide range of pies on sale at Lisa’s Pie Shop. Some of the 28 types of pies include apple, cherry, blueberry, raspberry, black raspberry, strawberry, rhubarb, peach, pumpkin, pecan, chocolate cream, coconut cream, and sugar cream, which is Indiana’s official state pie.
For more than 30 years, the husband-and-wife team of Jim and Lisa Sparks have been working side by side in order to meet the dessert demands of their ever-expanding and forever-loyal list of clients and customers. They have been married for nearly 40 years. Clearly, a couple that makes pies together, stays together.
Truth be told, Lisa is in charge of making the pies, but Jim helps by ordering the supplies, picking up the supplies, selling the pies, collecting the money, and being the face of the ‘franchise.’ Clearly, everybody knows about Lisa, but everybody knows Jim, who also helps get the ball rolling, so to speak, every day by helping with the foundation of every pie.
“Jim makes the dough for every crust and helps pour the cream,” said Lisa. “He does a great job.”
When asked what is the favorite pie of their clients, Lisa answers that question by checking the calendar.
“Our favorite pie is always based on which fruits are freshest and in season,” said Lisa. “Naturally, pumpkin, pecan, and sugar cream pies are the top sellers during the holidays – Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
And, according to Lisa, some of the more popular pies are the combination pies such as strawberry-rhubarb and blueberry-peach.
Simply put, the key to the success of Lisa’s Pie Shop is the never-ending attention to detail by the ownership.
“We make every pie from scratch and we pay attention to the quality of every pie,” said Lisa. “Paying attention to details pays off for us.”
One of those important details has to do with Lisa’s artistic abilities.
Just before a pie is placed in the oven, Lisa draws an outline of the shape of the fruit which is inside the pie, on the crust. This allows Jim to properly identify the pie when it’s ready to be removed from the oven and placed on the sales shelf.
While Lisa’s Pie Shop is located about an hour’s drive north of Indianapolis, just off U.S. 31, one can easily feel that this storefront is located in the middle of nowhere, but Lisa disagrees.
“I think we are in the middle of everywhere,” countered Lisa. “We have regular customers from all over the country.”
And, she has a good point, as customers come from far and wide to buy a pie at Lisa’s Pie Shop. These pies are especially popular for football fans in the fall who go tailgating prior to high school, college (Notre Dame, Purdue, Indiana, Ball State, among others) and pro football (Indianapolis Colts) games.
“On some Saturdays in the fall, we’ll open up early to accommodate fans who want to get a head start on their tailgating festivities,” added Lisa. “For many Notre Dame fans heading north for home games, they travel along U.S. 31 up to South Bend, so we right along the way.”
It’s worth noting that when Colts fans want a pie for their Sunday tailgating experience, they have to buy the pie in advance since Lisa’s Pie Shop is closed on Sundays.
“The Colts fans will call ahead and pick up the pie early, on a Friday or a Saturday, so they’ll have it on Sunday,” noted Lisa.
It’s no surprise that the pies from Lisa’s Pie Shop have won many awards and been featured in the press.
According to Lisa, USA Today has included Lisa’s Pie Shop in a story on the top ten pie shops in the U.S. The Food Channel and the Travel Channel have also produced stories on Lisa’s Pie Shop.
“Over the years, we’ve also won numerous state awards and many ribbons,” added Lisa.
When it comes to paying for your pie at Lisa’s Pie Shop, there are two forms of payment: cash or check. That’s the way it always has been and always will be.
And, it’s worth noting that Jim and Lisa Sparks acquire their fruit from many different locations. For instance, the strawberries come from California, the apples are grown in Washington and Indiana, the black raspberries are harvested in Oregon, the cherries are sourced in Michigan, and the peaches come from Georgia, South Carolina, and Michigan.
Even though Jim and Lisa operate their business like a well-oiled machine, there are often issues with getting what they need when they need it.
“Every year, there are supply issues with fruits,” said Jim.
In addition to making sure every pie is made to the highest possible quality, Jim and Lisa also monitor the shelf life of every pie.
“We don’t keep a pie on the shelf for more than 24 hours,” said Jim.
But, he also admits that no pies go unsold.
Those pies which are not sold within a 24-hour time period are then repackaged and sold in another form. Lisa is able to transfer pies into 16-ounce Mason jars. They are referred to as Pies in a Jar, but every jar is only big enough to hold half of a pie.
“It’s great to sell a day-old pie,” said Lisa. “You just heat and eat.”
As you would expect of a small business like Lisa’s Pie Shop, Jim and Lisa rely on their customers to help promote their existence and their pies.
“We let word of mouth promote us,” adds Jim.
And, Lisa Sparks is thankful for her regular customers.
“We would be nothing without our loyal customers from both inside and outside the state of Indiana,” notes Lisa.
And, it’s fair to say that Jim and Lisa Sparks’ customers also have a mutual appreciation for the wide variety of pies prepared for them to buy and try throughout the year.
If, for some reason, you don’t like pies, then Lisa’s Pie Shop does make three types of cookies (chocolate chip, Snicker doodles, and M & M), Mexican wedding cakes, four types of bread (pumpkin, banana, blueberry/zucchini, and pineapple/zucchini), pumpkins rolls, Bundt cakes, and four varieties of quiche (ham & cheese, spinach, bacon, and Western).
But, if you have never tried one of Lisa’s pies, I encourage you to do so. When you try it, you will like it. I did and I know you will, too. By the way, I had the cherry pie and I’m headed back for more! I’ll see you at Lisa’s Pie Shop.
This place won’t be difficult to find because as Lisa says, “We’re in the middle of everywhere.”