New owner of Kathy's Pies finds a routine to the business

'When we sell all the pies ..., that's a good day'

 

By Katie Mills Giorgio

By the taste of it, you might not know that Kathy’s Pies in Cedar Rapids has a new owner.

Amy Jordan took over ownership just a few weeks ago, and while her name is not Kathy, she plans to keep the name and most of what customers have grown to like about the bakery over the past few decades.

“Everyone knows this name and the reputation they have built over the years,” she said.

“The most important thing for me has been the consistency of our products. The same people are making the treats our customers are buying. And so many of our customers we have had for a long time.”

Some of the regulars, in fact, have stopped in and asked to meet Jordan already.

Not a stranger to creating delectable treats, Jordan is a longtime baker. She got her license to start an in-home bakery in May 2018.

 
 

“I was planning to make muffins and homemade Pop Tarts,” she said, noting that her long-term goal was to open her own bakery within a few years.

Just a few months into starting her own in-home venture, Jordan heard Kathy McCauley and Terri Henecke, sisters and the owners of Kathy’s Pies, Cedar Rapids’ downtown bakery at 616 Fifth Ave. SE that opened more than 33 years ago, wanted to sell the business.

“I came in and looked around,” recalled Jordan, who toured the store back in November. “I didn’t know they did more than just pies!

“They tell me the Realtor told the owners after our meeting that I was going to be the new owner. They had had a lot of calls about it after it was on the news, and the Realtor just had a feeling.”

Jordan was interested in buying, so they spent the month of December in negotiations and closed the deal on Feb. 1 of this year.

A large part of the appeal of taking over the business, Jordan acknowledged, is that Kathy’s Pies always has been family owned. She plans to carry on that tradition as well, working closely with her own family.

 
 

Jordan’s mother, LuAnn, is in the store daily helping with the baking. Her dad, Steve, and her brother Bill pop in on occasion to do maintenance and keep everything in working order.

“This is a whole family affair. I brought them all when we took the tour, so they have been a part of the process from the start.”

Because their purchase agreement was reached before the holidays, it was possible for Jordan to spend Dec. 23 and 24 — major pie production and pick up days — in the store observing the operations.

“It was great that I could see how the process worked,” she noted. “Then in the following weeks, I would pop in and spend a few hours like that throughout January.”

She said it was key having McAuley and Henecke agree to stay on for 60 days.

“We don’t need them every day, but they are a phone call away,” Jordan said. “Walking in the door on Day One, you have a feeling like you don’t know what to do.

“I was able to shadow Kathy and Terri and they could guide me through things. That’s how we trained.”

It’s also very helpful, especially in terms of the consistency that Jordan wants to maintain, that all the employees have stayed on through the ownership transition.

“All the staff has stayed on in their roles,” Jordan said. “We have been cross-training and it’s all going well. There’s a lot of longevity here with this staff and they are great.”

The building land itself is owned by Mercy Medical Center, which in turn leases the property. In purchasing the business, Jordan bought the rights to the name, everything within the building, all supplies on hand, the website, software for the cash register and other operations and, of course, all the recipes.

As of late November, Kathy’s Pies sale price was listed at $195,000.

And while it’s only been a little over a month since the sale, Jordan has gotten into a nice routine.

“My day starts at about 5 a.m. I get the wholesale orders ready to go out the door,” she said, noting the business has large wholesale operation that delivers six days a week to retailers from Waterloo to Williamsburg.

“Then I’m baking cookies in the morning. I want to be done with that by 7 a.m. so that when the doors open and the phone starts ringing, I’m ready to go.”

The rest of her day is filled with whatever is needed.

“I just go with the flow of the day. We might be busy with cakes or cheesecakes or cookies on any given day,” Jordan said. “We make about 30 pies for retail each day and I am hoping that increases.

“When we sell all the pies in the case, that’s a good day.”

While Jordan said she’s excited to continue the Kathy’s Pies legacy, she has goals to grow the business.

“I don’t see us moving by any means, but I would love to have a location in North Liberty in the next couple of years. It would be a retail shop as the production would happen in Cedar Rapids,” she said.

She also hopes to add an online ordering option to the website.

“Everything they were making here at Kathy’s Pies were things I wanted to make for my own bakery,” said Jordan, explaining why she believed it was a smart decision to invest in buying the business.

“I also thought I could add value with some of the products I’ve been working on and the ideas I have.”

Jordan introduced her homemade Pop Tarts last week to fellow staff members and, if they are well received, the desserts will be added to the retail offerings soon.

“I am challenging the employees to come up with new product ideas, too,” she said.

“We will keep all the staple items, everything that everyone loves about Kathy’s Pies, but it’s exciting to add new items as well.”