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While we enjoy touring different factories and learning more about companies that help make our country great, one of my all time favorites was Our Sweet Time of Mrs Wick’s Pies Factory Tour. With over 200 different SKU numbers in their inventory, it is easy to see why Wick’s Pies is a local favorite in the city of Winchester in Indiana and working it’s way to other states.
Our Sweet Time at Wick’s Pies Factory Tour
Being a 3rd generation family owned business, it is also a a great model for other companies to follow. It was obvious that they don’t just have employees, but basically extended family members as our guide Dylan (the Sales and Marketing Director and our tour guide) asked a fellow employee how his holiday had been. Then asked if he had a good time with his family on the holiday. Many of their over 100 employees enjoy career longevity, staying with the Wick’s Pies family for 20 years plus. That is rare in an age where college kids are being told they will have 5-6 major career changes in their life – being part of a company that treats you like family so you treat the company as if it were a part of their own. Dylan boasted that they have a great product because of the people behind it.
The place is famous for their factory tours and the Wick’s Pies Factory Tour will show you the process of making pies from start to finish. You will first get to see how the flour is prepared for the dough and learn that they go through over 50,000 pounds of flour every two days. Their dough had no preservatives and comes the closest you can find to your own homemade recipe. Yes, they sell more than pies: also making a variety of different sized pie shells and also fruit glazes for pies. The company bakes a variety of 38 different pies such as peanut butter pies, German chocolate, pumpkin, coconut cream et al. Many traditional favorites with a few seasonal gems added in.
When asked about the future, Dylan said Wick’s was always looking at “healthy growth”. They have always been clever in their marketing, from his grandpa out doing grass root campaigns with samples to the twenty foot wide pie made at a local fair that required special burners to bake it. They actually have a Pie Demo – Tasting team that travels and lets future customers see what is so amazing about their brand. In an unsure economy, it warms my heart to see a family owned company still compete with the”big guys” and still maintain controlled growth – nothing kills a business faster than growing too fast to maintain their quality and the folks at Wick’s keep an eye on it.
The Wick’s Pies Factory Tour
Wick’s Pies is a familiar brand for more than 75 years and it has experience of selling pies in as many as 36 states in the US. But once you undertake the factory tour, you will understand that making pies is actually a very long process. It takes around an hour for each pie that comes down the half mile long delivery line and then cools for two more hours. Each visitor is made to wear hair and beard nets (if applicable) as soon as he/she enters the factory floor and needs closed toe shoes. Even our guide Dylan wore a beard net and he has a very closely cropped “almost” beard. You also need to be over the age of ten. As many as 60 people work in the factory; so the noise level is always on the higher side but not over the top.
The first step includes making the flour ready for the dough. Over-sized mixers are used to prepare the dough and then it is transferred to vats where the workers knead it into form and it is put into aluminum pans. The dough is then pressed into shells by a mechanized process but this process is monitored by workers at all times. The shells are then filled as per day’s menu, when we were touring, they were just making empty frozen shells. The shells are then wrapped and sealed in for freshness before it is being taken for baking, labeling and freezing.
Their top seller is the Sugar Cream pie – a Hoosier favorite that they held a patent on for 19 years. Their unique process takes this “finger pie” to a commercial level and ends up with a delectable result. Sugar Cream pie is actually the state pie of Indiana and one you just have to try! It is kind of like custard pie – but has no eggs. Like the fact a bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly, it shouldn’t seem to work out chemistry wise but it does. You just have to try it to see for yourself. I am kind of a pie snob and honestly? I was blown away.
However, these tours are conducted on the basis of prior appointment only. After the tour is over you can make your way to the Mrs Wick’s restaurant and bakery where you can enjoy a full range of savories and pies. You will feel like you are stepping back in time into a classic diner, complete with a counter full of locals sitting on stools who are there to solve the world’s problems. The friendly staff, clean environment, and good food are obviously what keeps them coming back.
When “grandpa” turned the reigns of the factory over to the next generation, Mrs Wicks was his new project. Originally thinking it would be a flagship for a chain that could compete with Bob Evans, it remains a solo independently operated local gem where the food is really delicious and the service of the staff is exemplary. However, you must save room in your tummy for the pies and buy some for your friends back home!
Both locals and tourists say that it is an awesome place to have your lunch although the joint has become famous for their sheer variety of pies. It is basically a bakery café that makes as many as 38 different types of pies every day. In fact, they are specialists in customized pies too; you just need to give them a couple of days’ notice to fulfill your order. Bring a cooler! With whole pies averaging $8 to $10, you can also buy “seconds” for $2 to $3! The seconds are still just as yummy, just not perfect enough to make their standards for boxing up. You can also pie up empty frozen pie shells – and they are worth the investment. Being voted Best Pie Shells from the American Pie Council two years in a row in Orlando should boost your confidence if you can’t take my word for it. They even have mini shells – perfect for those little quiches or tarts!
While Wicks Pies is open from Monday to Friday (6 am to 7 pm) and till 2 pm on Saturdays but they don’t offer factory tours year round. You should contact them in advance for a tour – they run them usually during the school year and made an exception for us and our early July visit.
Wick’s Pies is part of the Indiana Foodways Pie Trail – a collection of great independently owned places you just need to try! Check out the Pie Trail HERE
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