Updated: Feb 9, 2019
Story by Sergio Portela Photos By Nathan Pillow
It all started with a Granny Smith Apple Tree and a cooking contest between friends.
Mary Jaques is the founder of Crumb Pies, a small business in Rocklin, California. As an expert baker of organic, hand-made crumb pies, Jaques' contribution to the baking scene in the Sacramento area has affectionately earned her the nickname, "The Pie Lady".
“The pies are bottomless and crustless,” Jaques explains about her signature pies. “I always use fresh fruit. Nothing is frozen, canned or jarred and there is no syrup. I use ingredients like sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and butter. Then it’s topped with a hand crumble topping, which is why my business is called Crumb Pies.”
Although Jaques currently lives in Rocklin she is originally from Ukiah, California. There, she developed a passion for baking pies.
Jaques’ sister had Granny Smith Apple Trees in her backyard. The trees produced an abundance of apples. According to Jaques, one season her family harvested enough apples to donate to the local food bank. Even after this generous donation, they still had many apples left over.
The surplus of apples inspired Jaques and 12 friends to host a baking contest. The one rule: Only apples from the Granny Smith trees could be used.
“We baked, offered samples and voted," Jaques recalls. "I ended up winning it.
Following this victory, the Crumb Pies owner began researching recipes to perfect her pie making practice.
With each new creation she would request her co-workers' feedback, leaving out comment cards in the break room next to her baked goods.
This experience eventually led Jaques to develop the concept for her signature apple crumb pie. This mouthwatering dessert would win her first place in Ukiah's annual Harvest Festival multiple times.
Jaques' manifestations of creativity don't end there. She used her pie-baking powers to raise enough money for her sons' 8th grade field trip to New York City.
“I started a Facebook page and started hanging flyers. Ukiah is a small town so we relied on word-of-mouth. We earned enough so that both of us would be able to go to New York within about 2 months,” Jaques says proudly.
Jaques arrived home from New York to an influx of pie requests. To keep up with demand, she resigned from her 9-5 position to focus on fulfilling pie orders.
With every pie, Jaques goes the extra mile to purchase locally sourced ingredients. She has built strong relationships with farmers market vendors and many other small business owners in the greater Sacramento community.
"I love meeting new people at events, working in the truck and being with my kids. I want to show them that anything is possible.”
Crumb Pies operates out of a retrofitted Military Ambulance, known as the Pie Wagon. Here, pies are sold fresh and a-la-mode.
Although her pies remain delicious for up to two weeks, Jaques takes pride in selling fresh pies to her customers. If her pies do not sell within 2 days, she donates them. “I pride myself on them being fresh. I only give myself two days but the pies are good for up to two weeks,” she says. “After 2 days, I donate them to my kid’s school.
Jaques recently added chocolate chip and peanut butter cup cookies to the Crumb Pies menu. Next, she plans to possibly add cheesecake.
Crumb Pies caters events such as weddings, real estate open houses and company parties out of the Pie Wagon. Eventually, Jaques would like to open up a bakery of her own and continue to provide catering services for events.
Thank you for making our community sweeter, Crumb Pies!