Anita Hyde spent 25 years working as an underwriter in the corporate insurance business. In her 50s, she was suddenly laid off. Lost and confused about what to do next, she says she walked on the beach and engaged in “long conversations with God.”
The Jacksonville resident wanted to do something that would have a positive impact on the world—and realized she could make a difference by raising money to help children around the globe who were dying of starvation. But in order to help such children, she needed to start her own business; one that “could multiply.”
During this time of transition, she also found herself craving pie. She couldn’t find a shop that specialized in homemade pies anywhere around the First Coast. The solution was obvious; start a pie shop. Two years ago, she opened Pie Heaven on Mayport Road in Atlantic Beach. The business has been a growing success. Staying true to her philanthropic mission, the success of the pie shop enables Hyde to write sizeable checks to a nonprofit organization which feeds children in the neediest parts of the world.
Hyde, and her friend and manager, Linda Holfinger, arrive early every morning and spend long hours on their feet creating gorgeous fruit pies: apple, blackberry, peach, triple berry (blackberries, blueberries and raspberries), baked strawberry, rhubarb, strawberry rhubarb, maple cranberry apple, organic cherry and organic blueberry. They also whip up baked custards and dreamy creamy ice-box pies: Coconut Custard, Country Chocolate, French Lemon, Bourbon Pecan, Chocolate Bourbon Pecan, Sweet Potato and Organic Pumpkin (a favorite this time of year). And, of course classic savory pies including Quiche, Chicken Pot Pie, Chili Cornbread and Shepherd’s Pie.
All of their pies are made with completely natural ingredients, using recipes Hyde and Holfinger developed themselves through research and experimentation.
“Pies from most grocery stores have preservatives and other bad stuff in them,” Hyde says. Determined to use only healthy ingredients, she came up with her own crust using coconut oil, organic shortening and butter. Every pie is made from scratch. Making pies from scratch is a multi-step process, but Hyde and Holfinger have it down to a science. They make batches of sweet and non-sweet dough, refrigerate them and then roll them out with rolling pins. They crimp the edges, fill with ingredients and bake. For pumpkin pie, which is a holiday favorite, they roast whole pumpkins and let them cool before gutting their insides to make a puree with sugar and eight different spices.
Customers can eat-in, take-out or do both. They can buy a whole pie, or just a slice.
“Some customers walk out with a slice of each,” Hyde says. And many buy whole pies as gifts for birthdays, showers, tailgating and housewarming parties.
Pie Heaven “has really been a blessed business,” says Hyde. “I never made a pie, until I decided to bake them and sell them,” she says. “But if Colonel Sanders started his chicken business in his 60s, I figured I could start a pie business in my 50s.”