The story of how McHale became the “pie lady” dates back to her childhood as she was influenced by her mother and grandmother as she would watch them bake.
Situated in the middle of Main Street, Moorestown residents often pass by the Pie Lady Cafe, but find themselves wondering, who is the “pie lady?” Her name is Christine McHale and she has been baking delicious goods for as long as she can remember.
The story of how McHale became the “pie lady” dates back to her childhood, as she was influenced by her mother and grandmother as she would watch them bake for their family, neighbors and community members. As she took in their baking expertise, they would encourage her to help and learn, leading to McHale having her fingers get caught up in the electric beater twice by the age of 6.
Then, after approximately 10 years of baking pies from home while her four kids were young, she had a realization. One day while driving down Main Street, McHale, a spiritual and religious person, had an intense feeling sweep over her to pursue her dream of opening a bake shop.
“From that moment, with the support of my husband, I found the current location of the shop and moved forward to make it happen,” McHale said. “My husband, family and friends, along with many knowledgeable business consultants helped to put the plan in motion. In particular, with young children at home, my husband made it possible for me to leave for work early and return late at night to put in over 75 hours a week of work in the early days … as any new small business owner would know.”
The cafe officially opened on Dec. 23, 2008, after many months of delays with construction, however McHale was determined to open before Christmas that year. Looking back, she credits most of the cafe’s success to her family, especially seeing as all four of her children have worked by her side, learning all aspects of the business.
Aside from being able to offer the community delicious pies and other treats, McHale finds inspiration and motivation from spending time with her children at the shop, watching them support her and passing on her knowledge and appreciation of baking. She recalls having some of her best conversations with her children across the table over a bowl of dough.
As for her name…
“The name Pie Lady Cafe came about during the years prior to opening the shop,” McHale said. “As my home business grew and people came to recognize me, they would ask, ‘aren’t you that pie lady?’ And so it stuck!”
Over the years, McHale has found the most challenging part of owning and operating her bakery to be providing a consistent product and balancing life in general. She admits it is also challenging to generate enough margins to survive on Main Street. Yet, to ensure her products are top-of-the-line, she has attended a few master classes in baking and has read cookbooks for both techniques and recipes, but still considers herself largely “self-taught” of which she is very proud.
While her baking may have been self-taught, an important part of her success has also been attributed by many of her past and present employees, many of which have become her close friends. She says without their skill, creativity, loyalty and support, the shop would not be where it is today.
Additionally, the community has embraced the success of the Pie Lady Cafe, with some regulars even stopping by twice a day. In response, McHale tried to to donate to local organizations, fundraisers, schools and nonprofit groups whenever possible. Most recently, she attended the Taste Of Burlington County at The Merion, a European-style catering and banquet facility in Cinnaminson, with sweets available for sampling to help raise funds for the Providence House Domestic Violence Services of Catholic Charities.
“The Moorestown community is one of the major reasons I’ve been successful. When I was searching for a location, it was very important to me that I find one in my hometown of Moorestown,” McHale said. “I try to give back whenever I can. Being able to give back to the community is one of the true measures of success.”
The Pie Lady Cafe’s most popular pie remains apple crumb, and her most popular non-pie item is the blueberry lemon scone, which she says they simply can’t bake enough of. One of the best newer items offered is the quiche. Despite not having the space for more savory items, McHale wanted to offer something customers could enjoy for lunch or even pick up for dinner.
“My favorite part of owning the Pie Lady Cafe is making the customers happy, being a part of Moorestown’s history on Main Street and, of course, baking delicious comfort baked goods everyday,” McHale said. “I hope [the community] finds the Pie Lady Cafe a place that makes their tummies and their hearts happy.”
McHale plans to utilize her psychology undergraduate degree from LaSalle University and a master’s degree from Villanova University as she plans to expand the shop at the current location to include breakfast and lunch and an expanded coffee menu.
The Pie Lady’s Pumpkin Muffin Recipe:
1/2 cup oil
1 cup pumpkin
1/3 cup water
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 cups flour (sifted)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
Dash of cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
In a large bowl beat eggs, add oil, water, pumpkin and sugar. Mix until blended. In a separate bowl, sift flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Gently mix dry ingredients into egg mixture. Scoop batter 3/4 full into greased or paper lined muffin tins. Bake in 350 degree oven about 20 to 25 minutes or until center of muffin springs back when lightly pressed. Cool and Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon if desired. Enjoy with a great cup of LaColombe coffee from the Pie Lady!