Monday, December 3, 2012
Emporium Pies impresses in sizzling Bishop Arts District
From the pretzel crusts to the mustard-yellow mixers, Emporium Pies' cuteness is consistent.
OAK CLIFF A 1920s style home painted mustard yellow and baby blue unleashes an aroma of pumpkin, warm spices and fresh ground coffee up and down Bishop Avenue in Oak Cliff.
That scent resonates from Emporium Pies, a specialty pie shop small-town Texas natives Megan Wilkes and Mary Sparks opened on September 1. Sparks is a self-taught baker with a degree in hospitality and Wilkes has a degree in interior design and a master’s degree in business.
New specialty shops are opening all around the Bishop Arts district, contributing to the hopeful economic growth of Oak Cliff, and to the mayor’s GrowSouth plan. The plan includes steps to strengthen and engage neighborhoods like Bishop Arts in southern Dallas, improve run-down property, and strengthen schools and communities.
“The mayor sees GrowSouth as an economic opportunity and not a charity case but an investment opportunity,” said Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Rawlings and project manager for GrowSouth Shawn Williams. “There have been a lot of successful businesses popping up all over southern Dallas.”
Wilkes and Sparks tested out their pies in many Dallas neighborhoods last holiday season by opening pop up shops in Uptown, Highland Park, and Richardson before finding their home in Oak Cliff.
“People in Oak Cliff really embraced our product. Down here people understand the craftsmanship and quality that goes into what we make,” Wilkes said.
Wilkes and Sparks were introduced to each other through a mutual friend, but grew up not far apart. Wilkes is from Maypearl and Sparks is from Lindale, both located in northeast Texas. Wilkes handles the business side of the business and utilized her interior design degree to incorporate small town Texas into the décor of the shop. Customers can find white tabletops and wood floors with painted yellow iron tables on the front porch. Even the mixers visible at the counter match the mustard yellow theme.
The pies offered at the shop vary with the season. Currently, there are seven kinds, including the Smooth Operator, which is a French chocolate silk with a pretzel crust, and the Drop Dead Gorgeous, which is a pumpkin spice with a gingerbread crust. As of now the pies are all for dessert, but according to Sparks, they may eventually feature meat pies. The shop sells coffee as well, which comes from a local grinder.
“This place has such a great atmosphere. Everything is laid back and the pies are made with love. You can’t find pies like this anywhere else,” customer Kyla Norris said.
The Bishop Arts District used to be a very popular trolley stop back in the 1920s. The area started to decline in the mid 1960s until the 1980s because the use of buses made streetcars useless. In the mid 1980s, property developers saw value in the area and started buying the buildings up and renovating them. Since then the area has continued to grow and now is home to some of Dallas’ top restaurants, including Hattie’s, Tillman’s Roadhouse, and Lucia.
David Spence is the president and founder of Good Space in Oak Cliff. His company restores residential and commercial properties, including the little old house that is now home of the pie shop. He has been in the area since the early 1990s, and has seen things transform over time. The tax revenues generated in the Bishop Arts are important to the development of southern Dallas to help increase funding in the area.
“Maybe we shouldn’t just think about vacant land, but redeveloping existing properties; that generates tax revenue, too,” Spence said, “Not to mention it’s greener and better for the environment.”
Spence buys old houses, redevelops them, and then rents them out. A year ago, Emporium Pies was a run-down, old house -- but nothing paint and charm couldn’t fix.
Spence is a huge fan of the warm, welcome transformation the two girls have given his property in addition to the creativity they put into their pies.
“It’s not just the product they sell, it’s the aprons, curtains, cute house and cute girls — that’s something that’s consistent with what people are looking for here. Oh, and my favorite pie is the Smooth Operator,” Spence said.
There are also new apartments going up in the area causing an increase in property value. Sparks is optimistic about the future of Bishop Arts.
“I don’t see it fizzling out, I see it growing,” Sparks said.
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