Nothing makes the olds around here happier than seeing members of the Brokelyn Alumni Club go on to bigger and other things. Longtime readers may remember Alison Pels’ seminal work on freeloading at museums and her bravery and fortitude in hydrant-testing drugstore makeup with the other Broketown Ladies. She is also the journalistic powerhouse behind the definitive investigation into whether Dr. Bronner’s really has 18 uses. (Spoiler alert: maybe.) Now she’s plying her smarts on pastry dough with Pels Pie Co. (446 Rogers Avenue), her pie shop, bar and coffee house opening today in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens with all kinds of merriment, then open daily from 7 to 10. Stop by, but don’t do any of these things! Mean time, here’s more on how Alison rose from the ranks of the doughless and achieved what 1 in 3 Brooklynites only say they’re going to do:
Hey Alison! How come you’re opening a pie shop?
So I’ve worked in the food service industry for ten years now, between short stints as a “proper adult human” with a 9-5. Although I used to consider these jobs as place holders for my journalism career, I soon realized I had a passion for good food and service that I didn’t feel for local county court reporting. Once I embraced this direction I began to care more and more about making my customers feel satisfied and happy.
My dad has always been an entrepreneur. He grew up the eldest of a big family in a small Australian town called Deniliquin, raising chickens and selling their eggs to neighbors, and fishing golf balls out of the lake with his toes to sell back to the golf course. He was the smartest kid in school, but left a law degree unfinished to start his own business.
Michael Pels started Real Foods Corn Thins, in 1980 and it has since become an international success. I watched this happen from my own limited perspective growing up, first sharing a bedroom with my brothers and eventually moving into my very own room at age 7.
After a fun stint working at Bedford Hill Coffee Bar in Bed Stuy for two years, I started looking for commercial spaces last summer and found my dream storefront in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.
What kind of pies are you serving? What makes them the best of all possible pies?
We’re baking fresh butter crust pies daily, with a rotating seasonal variety both classic and slightly experimental. We will also have a selection of breakfast pastries and savory hand pies. We make everything from scratch with the best produce from local farms, at a price that everyone can enjoy. My baker Maddy Gentile has worked so hard on all of our recipes, and she is preparing to start her days before the sun rises to feed the hungry masses.
What else will you serve besides pies?
We’ve also been working with acclaimed Brooklyn bartender Shannon Mustipher on wine and beer pairings to complement our pies, and the team at Counter Culture Coffee has set us up to brew the best coffee and espresso on the market. We also have the finest Kusmi Tea in all possible flavors. Basically we want to provide a cute and fun space in which to sell affordable but delicious food and drinks.
Cookies are easy to make. Pies are hard. Are you nervous?
Pie crust is hard to master but pies are actually very forgiving. The best pies are simple and fresh, a celebration of seasonal produce and the time of year. Sliced and served warmed or room temperature, with fresh whipped cream, I can’t think of any other food better suited to satiate a ravenous crowd.
What’s been the hardest thing about opening a pie shop? The best part?
I’ve gone through several stages of anxiety, excitement and terror, but at this point it’s all about to come together and I’m so proud of myself and my amazing team for getting this far. The next stage is going to be equally challenging, but it’s the side of the business that I know and love: making my customers happy.
The hardest part of setting up this business was the element of the unknown. There was so much paperwork at one point I doubted if I’d ever climb out from under it, and finding contractors to complete parts of the build out while staying under budget was a real challenge. My good friend Alan Harding (of The Pines) is an old-school Brooklyn restaurateur, and patiently explained all the cogs in the machine to me and why they are necessary. I couldn’t have done this without him, even though we drove each other crazy and he’s probably going to block my number once this is done.
What’s going on at Pels Pies this weekend?
The space itself is serene and welcoming, and more beautiful than I could ever have imagined. My friend Kevin Browning is an architect/designer with impeccable taste, and I’m so grateful to have him on board this whole time. Glenn Paul Smith and his team built the space, focusing on carpentry details and simplicity. The building was built in 1928, and we tried to let the beauty of the original tin ceiling and venetian plaster shine through.
What else do people need to know about Pels Pies?
This Friday is our opening day, with festivities planned for the whole weekend. I have so many talented friends, several of whom are playing music and DJing this weekend. Friday night will feature Brokelyn’s own Caroline Shadood spinning her mix of lady pop surf rock from from 7-10, Saturdayafternoon will be Julia Read and her band from 5-6 with acclaimed Brooklyn DJ Kroba playing funk and disco hits from 7-10. Sunday afternoon will feature an audio visual feast from the one and only Preston Spurlock from 5-6 before my good mate DJ Andrew Devlon takes us on a wavy deep house journey into the evening and beyond.
There will be slices of pie for $4, beers for $5 and glasses of red white and bubbly for $6 all night, with a very special cheese plate from Murray’s Cheese with freshly baked focaccia bread for $10.
Do you have a childhood pie story involving a grandmother and a rural location?