The small shop will also sell coffee and ice cream.
“Making pies has more in common with playing darts,” says Sol Schott, the owner and baker of Acme Pie Company, than making other desserts.
“You can read 50 books about playing darts, but unless you throw darts for 1,000 hours,” he says, you won’t even start to perfect the craft. It’s a riff on the Malcolm Gladwell mantra of the “need to have practiced, to have apprenticed, for 10,000 hours before you get good.”
Because of the nuanced nature of pie dough, he says, restaurant pastry chefs aren’t fans of making pies. “As a pastry chef, we kinda hated making pie because they’re the almost antithesis of European pastry,” says Schott. Where a “European tart’s crust is uniformly mixed,” he says, pie is more about feel, but also about the science of understanding acid, fat and ice, and how it prevents the flour from making long gluten bonds.
All we need to know is he adds maple syrup and chocolate to his pecan pie.
And this led to his business idea.
Schott started Acme Pie Company about five years ago to give his fellow pastry chefs a break from churning out crusts, and instead, could purchase them from him. He sold to area restaurants and farmers markets.
When Twisted Vines went out of business on Columbia Pike in Arlington, he found the opportunity to complement his wholesale business with his first retail shop. He hopes to open the doors this April.
Schott is a trained pastry chef and spent years in hotels, high-end kitchens (DC’s Vidalia) and places where pie is queen: diners. For almost nine years he baked pies and other homey treats for DC’s sister concepts The Diner, Tryst and Open City.
As a brick-and-mortar operation, Acme Pie Company will still sell mostly pies, by the (oversized) slice for $6, 6-inch pie for $12 and 10-inch pie for $28-$32 (estimate prices) in flavors like blackberry with lime, coconut custard, Scottish apple (with raisins soaked in bourbon) and sour cherry.
The shop will also feature Falls Church’s Rare Bird Coffee Roasters and Mount Desert Island Ice Cream (a la mode and milkshakes). He plans to expand with savory pies (mashed potato with leeks, cauliflower and bacon is one idea), plus quiches and biscuits for weekend brunch.
The interior will be stylized in a circa 1930s-Works Progress Administration motif. “I’m very much a leftist, very much a liberal, and I like the idea,” he says of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Depression-era job program, better known as WPA, which helped 8.5 million Americans find work. “It’s one of the greatest achievements of our government.”
On a much, much smaller scale, Schott helps locals become employed. He works with Phoenix Bikes to staff Acme Pie stands at area farmers markets, while promoting a zero-carbon model: workers bike the pies to the markets, and use the bikes to display the desserts in pie boxes made from 100-percent recyclable material. The clear window is corn-based, and about double the price of boxes with plastic windows.
But it’s worth the cost. “I’m pretty careful,” says Schott. He tries to “have as small a footprint as I can doing this.” And finally, he has a spot of his own. He says, he was “waiting for the right time, and it feels like this is the right time.” // Acme Pie Company: 2803 Columbia Pike; Arlington
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