Damian and Vicky Parker, owners of the steadily growing English Pork Pie Company recently added another expansion to their list when they opened “The Pie Shop” at the front of their South Park Avenue factory (see history), making it the first authentic English pie and mash shop in Buffalo. Whether you’re a British expat or just a hungry Buffalonian looking to fill your belly with the freshest meat pies around, this little shop is an ideal place to stop at on your way into or out of the city.
The Parkers came to the U.S. from Britain and started their business in 2008 in a small converted kitchen area in a garage in Vermont, which they quickly outgrew. Later that same year, they headed for Buffalo to their first bakery location in West Seneca. By 2010, they had to relocate to a larger factory setting in Cheektowaga to accommodate their business’ growth, and by the next year, they were on the move once more to a larger factory building that the business currently calls home at 1176 South Park Avenue.
“It’s been an interesting location, kind of a last stop before you get to the city,” Damian said. “It’s been a better place for us to be. We’re located close to Canada, close to flour suppliers and meat suppliers, and close to the 90 as well, so it has good channels for distribution.”
When the Parkers started their business, they didn’t anticipate that it would take off and expand at such a rapid rate. “The more pies we make, the bigger we grow, the more machinery we buy…I figured it would take about 20 years, not three and a half years,” Damian said with a laugh. “It’s been extremely challenging, but it’s been rewarding to see it grow.”
With business pouring in from around the U.S. and from international customers as well, the pace certainly hasn’t slowed down for the Parkers, who clock 16 hour workdays all week long to keep up with their orders. Although they have plenty of business coming in from outside Buffalo, they have decided to turn their focus toward establishing a stronger presence in the local community by opening The Pie Shop. “There’s more and more local people who are finding us through The Pie Shop, which is great because most people still don’t know about us,” Damian said. “People in Singapore and Australia inquire about our pies, but people in Buffalo still don’t know we’re here. It’s only been a week, but we get people from as far as Florida who will drive down over the weekend.”
According to the Parkers, pie and mash shops are fairly common in larger towns in England, but theirs will be the first in this area. In terms of authenticity and freshness, you simply won’t find a better option than what’s on the menu at The Pie Shop. There will be a varying selection of pies coming hot off the production line, as well as mashed potatoes, steak and chips, and pie and gravy. They have also recently started manufacturing desserts under the English Dessert Company label, including egg custard tarts and proper British scones, which will be available at the shop. Their Facebook page will have daily updates on what the shop will be serving that day.
Those looking to grab a hot, healthy breakfast on their way into work can pick up coffee and a breakfast parcel to take with them on the road. Orders can also be called in or made online. For those who aren’t in a rush, there is plenty of outdoor seating to sit and enjoy some sunshine along with your authentic British meal. “It’s kind of a misconception that English food is bland,” Damian added. “It’s more diverse and more tasty than most pies, and we have a huge range of pies.”
That commonly held misconception seems to be fading, at least in the local community. According to Damian, business at the Pie Shop started picking up as soon as they posted the sign outside the factory. “We never know how busy we’ll be or where they’re going to come from. We’re getting more and more Canadians coming across to try our pies,” he said. “It started off with expats hunting us out, then it started being more American people. We’ve got a very high repeat customer base. They started slowly turning into weekly regulars, and then daily.”
The Parkers are also trying to build a bigger base of distributors in the area, although most of their customers come straight to the factory to pick up their products. Their pies are currently available at Premier Gourmet, but they are also working to get two or three local Irish Bars to carry them. According to Damian, some of their customers have been campaigning Wegmans to stock them as well. ”We’ve grown completely from word of mouth and social media,” he said. “We’re just trying to establish a local Buffalo customer base. We’re trying to get local people to help support the business and create more jobs, and also get locals to try something different–a pie that’s actually good for them and has real filling.”
Just as their authentic British food has begun to win over local customers stopping in to check out the Pie Shop, the city of Buffalo seems to have made a great impression upon the Parkers ”It grows on you,” Damian said. “I thought I’d be the only English person here, but there’s quite a large British population in the area, which is nice. Buffalo does grow on you, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else now. I’ve seen quite a lot of states, but none as homey as this.”