Food & Drink

‘The Pie Lady’ proves it’s never too late to bake up a new dream with her made-to-order home business

Martha McCormick sits on her front lawn in Keller with a sign that lets people know that she bakes pies for her home business.
Martha McCormick sits on her front lawn in Keller with a sign that lets people know that she bakes pies for her home business.

“My mama liked pies. We always had pies more than cake.”

Growing up in north Keller, Martha McCormick often helped her mother in the kitchen, working alongside her to create desserts and goodies that would later inspire her to do the same for others. Now she’s known as the “Pie Lady” in area circles. McCormick launched her own baking business, called MMM Pies, a year-and-a-half ago out of her home kitchen after retiring from a long and successful banking career.

At 78 years old, McCormick is just getting started on her sweet new venture.

“When I retired, I wanted to do something fun,” she says.

After graduating from Keller High School, McCormick got a job at Keller State Bank, eventually working her way up to a travel director position over the bank’s travel club. McCormick was in charge of coordinating and attending trips with top customers. Her travels took her to almost every state and around the world, as far as Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Norway.

“I didn’t have a boring banking career, that’s for sure,” she says.

When the company was sold to Frost Bank in 1999, McCormick’s office moved to southwest Fort Worth — a long drive from Keller amid growing traffic. She continued with the bank but retired after 25 years, only to return to the business for a brief stint at American National Bank. Though she was closer to home, McCormick still wanted something more.

I always thought before it’s all over, I wanted to do something different and exciting. I thought it would be fun making pies.

Martha McCormick

“I’d just been in banking all of my life, and I really had a wonderful life with bank travel,” she says. “But I always thought before it’s all over, I wanted to do something different and exciting. I thought it would be fun making pies.”

McCormick began studying what baking and selling from home would entail. She was encouraged by the Texas Cottage Food Law, which allows home bakers to legally bake and sell goods. She was also inspired after seeing the home of an elderly woman in a rural part of town with a small sign out front that read “pie today.”

“She only put her sign out when she had the pies,” McCormick recalls. “We would go by and get a pie. I thought, ‘I’m going to get a little sign and put it in the front yard and see what happens.’ ”

With her phone number, her business name — which stands for Martha Moren McCormick — and a picture of a classic cherry pie with a woven lattice crust, McCormick’s sign is now a neighborhood landmark for homemade pies of all kinds — meringues, classics and icebox — baked to order with a phone call.

“My first customer was the man who printed my sign,” McCormick says. “I told him I make 28 different pies, but he wanted the cherry lattice pie on my sign.”

She launched the endeavor in October 2014. Her first Thanksgiving in business, McCormick had more than 50 pie orders. Last Christmas, she had 60.

I always bake to order. I just think that’s how it should be. If you want a pie, you want a pie.

Martha McCormick

She also makes cobblers and 5-inch mini pies she dubs “Sweetie Pies” almost daily, reserving Saturdays for rest and spending time with family.

Her two children, daughter Lisa and son Jeff, live in Northeast Tarrant with their families, which include four grandchildren and two great-grandbabies. Her daughter pitches in frequently with baking and boxing pies, McCormick says; she even changed her plans over the busy Fourth of July weekend to help with orders.

“I always bake to order,” she says. “I just think that’s how it should be. If you want a pie, you want a pie.”

Word of mouth

Most of McCormick’s business is generated by word of mouth. She receives phone orders regularly, but if customers place an online order, they can expect a confirmation call from McCormick. “I’m kind of old-fashioned like that.”

While McCormick says she doesn’t have a giant home, she does make good use of a compact space. Just more than 100 square feet, her kitchen houses two double ovens, multiple mixers and a large dough board in the middle of it all.

“All of my appliances are new. I can bake eight pies at once if I need to,” she says. “I wore my other ovens out.”

With pops of red and a bit of decorative flair, McCormick’s busy kitchen also features a few treasures that are near and dear to her heart, including a print of Good Housekeeping magazine’s November 1931 cover of Young Mother Hubbard rolling dough, and a monthly wall calendar with pictures of her own pies given to her by her daughter.

McCormick says challenges are few, even when a large request comes in, like the order for 18 pies she received in December from a businessman giving them as gifts.

“I got up at 1 a.m. to start baking. The house smelled so good,” she says. “I also haven’t really burned anything. I think an angel has been on my shoulder. I haven’t really had any disaster of any kind.”

While McCormick likes to stick to her own list of varieties, which includes pecan coconut chess, peach cobbler, buttermilk and old-fashioned banana pudding with elaborately whipped meringue, she will take custom orders to make customers happy.

“One man wanted chocolate meringue with the pecans in it,” she says. “He said it was just like his mama’s.”

I’m supposed to be retired. But people say I’m the pie lady.

Martha McCormick

McCormick’s forest berry pie, a cobbler made with a blend of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, is also popular.

“I was on my way to Alaska on a train for my banking job,” she says. “They were serving that pie and it was absolutely fabulous. I thought, ‘I know I can make that.’ ”

McCormick’s husband died in 2000 and would have been tickled at her second career, she says. “He would have loved it. He would have really thought this was something.”

While she loves being in the kitchen, McCormick especially loves seeing the look on her customers’ faces when they pick up their neatly boxed pies tied with big red bows. Even more, when she receives phone calls of thanks later. She is proud to have brought joy to others, she says.

“I am surprised with myself that I would be making pies,” she says, laughing, as she does often. “I’m supposed to be retired. But people say I’m the pie lady.”

MMM Pies

Forest berry cobbler

Serves 8-10

  • 2 cups flour, plus 2 tablespoons
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  2/3 cup shortening
  • 6 tablespoons ice-cold water (plus more if needed)
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  •  1  1/2 cups sugar
  •  1/2 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • Sparkling sugar, as needed

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Mix 2 cups flour and salt together. Cut shortening into flour until mixture is crumbly. Add the ice-cold water and mix until dough comes together, adding more cold water if needed. Divide dough in half.

3. Roll out half of the dough onto a lightly floured board and then place in the bottom of square 9-inch pie pan. Combine berries and pour into the pan, spreading evenly over crust. Cover berries with the sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons flour and  1/2 cup water. Slice butter into pieces and place evenly over berries.

4. Roll out remaining dough and place on top of cobbler. Sprinkle a bit of sparking sugar over the top crust. Bake for 40 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 8: 519 calories, 26 grams fat, 69 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 23 milligrams cholesterol, 233 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber, 45 percent of calories from fat.

Martha McCormick, MMM Pies