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Wednesday, August 13, 2008 • Posted August 13, 2008

By this date, I had hoped to write a piece about recent audience participation at David Letterman’s Late Show in New York City, but it’ll have to wait.

Letterman—in general—and Rupert, in particular—are hereby pre-empted by a pair of pie-baking teachers in Glen Rose, Texas. (Now cut out the “head-scratching” about Rupert. He’s the laid-back delicatessen operator around the corner from the Late Show.)

When my wife asked him to name his most popular sandwich, Rupert offered his patented “expressionless” reply: “Hello Deli.” It’s also what he calls his tiny eatery….

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Our NYC visit merits more ink later, but today, the focus is on Glen Rose, Texas, school teachers who love teaching kindergartners—and baking pies.

Rupert’s “deli fame” accrues as an obvious “Letterman spin-off.”

He should be thankful that the “pie peddlers” (Rhonda Cagle and Jean Ford) aren’t in business around the other corner from the theatre. His sandwiches are tasty, but no match for the delectable creations coming from the big oven at the little pie shop in Glen Rose. On top of that, I’m satisfied that either of these teachers could match Letterman, barb by barb, in the repartee of his choice….

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First things first: “Cagle” and “Ford”—as they call each other—are veteran teachers, the former starting her 30th year and the latter, her 27th. They’ve taught kindergarten mostly, and for years have instructed their five-year-old broods in classrooms separated only by a hallway.

When the bell rings on Friday afternoons, they don their aprons and head for the “Pie Peddlers” shop located a pebble’s toss from the Somervell County Court House. They’re open for business until 6 p.m., then again from 10-6 on Saturdays.

Students in their classes—and a thousand or so others they’ve taught across the years—would do well to make special note of the hours….

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That’s because these folks get free pieces of pie EVERY time they visit. Others pay $4.

They don’t keep score, and aren’t sure how much pie they’ve given away.

How could they be expected to know when they aren’t even sure exactly how many pies are sold on a given weekend?...

  • * * * *

They’re now in their third location on the same block in this, their sixth year in business.

The “pie peddlers” now have a commercial convection oven and a few tables. Still, their entire operation spans less than a thousand square feet—a skosh larger than Rupert’s place. Still, it’s a far cry from the opening in the spring of ’03.

Then, pies were baked at home and displayed in a refrigerated case. When all eight pies were sold, they went home….

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School personnel started placing orders, and proceeds went into the cookie jar. That’s how they have funded expansions.

Ever-increasing sales, including more than 200 pies each Thanksgiving and Christmas weekend, help them know that their baking expertise portends a pleasant retirement project not too many years up the way. “We are thankful for friends, for the chance to mold young lives, and along the way, provide field trips to the pie shop,” Rhonda said. For them, it is more than “show and tell.” It is “taste and tell.” The youngsters, savvy about Cool Whip, have “what’s that?” questions about meringue….

  • * * * *

Their entire approach to business is refreshing. Almost everything in the shop had the “new worn off” someplace else. Though both “pie peddlers” are typically present during operational hours, they have help from others.

“Friends often insist on helping wash the dishes,” Jean said. The pair is also grateful for Rhonda’s parents, now 79 and 74, who often “show up to clean up.” They each have two grown children, and Jean’s two grandchildren, ages 3 and 6 months, are happy to “lick the spoon.” Jean’s hubby, Mike, will join them, with this proviso—”only the batter of buttermilk pie is worth lickin’.”

Call the pair “workaholics” if you like, but don’t leave “cooperative” out of the description….

  • * * * *

For example: Recipes for all their pies are available free of charge. They’ll also bake pies from recipes customers bring in.

Glen Rose folks know that they can place an order for a pie. It’s ready in 90 minutes, and often less.

An unnamed undertaker in the area doesn’t want anyone to miss out on pie because of empty pockets. From time to time, he leaves a couple of $20 bills to cover the charges accruing to patrons who are hankerin’ for a piece of pie, but are NOT former students….

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“No one takes advantage,” emphasized Rhonda, a native of the area who’s taught in Glen Rose ISD her entire career.

“We’re all neighbors here, and lots of times families of youngsters eating free pie slices buy whole ones to take home.”

The ladies never throw pies away. Coaches, with lean and hungry looks and long hours of weekend work, are the beneficiaries if a pie or two remain when the pie peddlers shut down on Saturday evenings….

  • * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker and author in the Metroplex. He welcomes inquiries and comments. Email: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Website: www.speakerdoc.com

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