…by Prill Boyle
Like Jenna in the movie Waitress, Michele Albano has turned her passion for pies into a thriving business.
Her grandmother tutored her in the art of pie making as a little girl, but it wasn\’t until Michele saw a Food Network show on America\’s top ten pie companies that she thought to herself, “I can do this as a career!”
At the time, Michelle was working as a real estate agent, a job that paid the bills but didn\’t excite her. Exhilarated by the prospect of making pies for a living, she began to research the business. Her plan was to start selling at local farmers\’ markets, but right away, she hit a hurdle. To sell food in her home state of Connecticut, she had to be licensed. With no access to a commercial kitchen, she couldn\’t move forward.
Her solution? To go to Vermont, a state that has fewer health regulations.
Working out of a tiny Killington ski condo, filling every available surface with her pies, she baked five days a week, shuttling back and forth between Vermont and Connecticut, feverishly selling both pies and houses.
Then she started entering her pies—chocolate pecan bourbon, apple cranberry crumb, you name it—in contests, winning first place in several. Just before Christmas last year she opened Michele\’s Pies in Norwalk, CT. The line was out the door. She\’s already outgrowing the space.
Back in 2006, sitting at her grandmother\’s deathbed, Michele made a vow to herself that someday she would make her grandmother\’s pies famous. Not long after the store opened, five of Michele\’s pies won blue ribbons at the 2008 National Pie Championship.
Michele insists that she\’s been lucky every step of the way. I reminded her that she\’s had enormous obstacles to overcome. “Most people would have given up when they couldn\’t get licensed,” I said, “or collapsed from exhaustion as they juggled two careers.”
“I love what I do,” Michele admitted with a big smile. “That\’s my secret.”
Prill Boyle is the author of Defying Gravity: A Celebration of Late-Blooming Women (Emmis Books, 2004). To read more inspiring stories, tips, and anecdotes, go to Prilll\’s blog.