Reopenings to put the pie back in Pie Town - Albuquerque Journal

Reopenings to put the pie back in Pie Town

Since taking over The Gathering Place, right, in January, Sarah Chavez has changed the name and is expanding the Homestead vintage and secondhand shop, left. She and her crew of pie bakers will now revive The Pie-O-Neer. (Courtesy of Sarah Chavez via El Defensor Chieftain)

When Kathy Knapp closed the Pie-O-Neer and put it up for sale in March 2020, the Catron County spot known as Pie Town was left with a single pie source: The Gatherin’ Place.

She hoped someone would buy the establishment and continue its storied legacy, but months went by without a serious offer.

Sarah Chavez in front of the Pie-O-Neer in Pie Town. (Courtesy of Kathy Knapp via El Defensor Chieftain)

And then when the owners of The Gatherin’ Place decided to retire at the end of 2020, it looked like tiny Pie Town would be left pie-less.

The thought of a town named after pie bereft of its namesake compelled Sarah Chavez, a pie baker at The Gatherin’ Place, to make a decision.

To keep the pie in Pie Town, she and her husband, Danny, acquired The Gatherin’ Place in January 2020. “We changed the name to Pie Town Pies earlier this year.”

Fast forward to July, and a chance conversation between Chavez and Knapp developed into an agreement that Chavez would reopen the Pie-O-Neer.

“Kathy and I spoke. I did a little soul searching,” Chavez said. “So, I thought about it. My husband still thinks I’m crazy, but you know, that’s what keeps it all exciting. When we really started talking about it I said, ‘Well, why don’t we do this?’ ”

She had already started making changes at The Gatherin’ Place, changing the name, for instance, to Pie Town Homestead to incorporate the vintage and secondhand business next door, and recruiting friends and neighbors to work part-time.

“I am fortunate to have a small army of local pie bakers who will work at one, or both places,” she said. “I do not take it for granted. It is going to be a tough transition in the sense of living up to the reputation created for that little spot, the Pie-O-Neer. We will bake pies for both places at the Pie-O-Neer. But the food will stay down at Pie Town Pies, now Pie Town Homestead.”

Knapp has gifted her with all of her pie recipes.

“My heart has been from the very first to ensure that all the recipes stay as is,” she said. “The goal is to keep a real cool spin on it. We’re adding a wonderful coffee and barista service to it to expand a little, and we’ll have cute little snacky items. But otherwise, we are keeping everything the same at the Pie-O-Neer. Recipes, the style of pie.”

Chavez said she likes to envision people coming in and staying awhile.

“When we moved here from Arizona, I wanted something peaceful, like you see on ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ where folks come in and sit around. Like the barbershop in Mayberry,” she said.

With a target opening date of the first weekend in August, Knapp said, customers can expect to find the same Pie-O-Neer pies that have made the restaurant famous.

“Sarah brings her love of baking and serving others to the Pie-O-Neer, and I couldn’t be happier to hand over the rolling pin,” she said. “She’ll continue using our recipes, and we’ll assist through transition, but she’ll take it from there.”

Knapp said the revitalization of the place takes her back to the late 1990s.

“I see myself – about 20 years ago – in Sarah,” she said. “Same drive and determination to make people happy. Her professional food service background and ability to visualize the future is exactly what the Pie-O-Neer needs going forward.”

She said Chavez is already an experienced pie baker.

“Her wonderful team of experienced local ladies makes this all the more exciting,” Knapp said. “We hope everyone will show Sarah the same ‘pie love’ they showed us because it’s what makes the pies so good!”

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