Before opening the Centerville Pie Company on Cape Cod, co-owner Kristin Broadley worked in a bank and twice lived through the terrifying experience of bank robbery. After the second robbery she knew that she needed to make a professional change, and contemplated what it would be like to do something that she was passionate about. She and her friend Laurie Bowen had a tradition of baking chicken pies for family and friends for the holidays every year.
Their pies were treasured — and requests were always coming in for more pies throughout the year. So Broadley decided to follow her heart, left the bank, and with the support of family and friends purchased a small space that had been a restaurant and converted it into a pie shop.
That was in 2008 and like any start-up, the Centerville Pie Company had its struggles. But soon the pie shop’s fortune would change. In 2009, Eunice Kennedy Shriver died and her funeral was held in nearby Hyannis, Mass. Among the many celebrated guests that came to pay their respects to Shriver’s family were Oprah Winfrey and her best friend, Gayle King. Broadley and Bowen decided to drop off a chicken pie and a peach pie with a personal note for Oprah at the hotel where she was staying — with no expectation that the pies would make it past the front desk.
Centerville Pie staff at work assembling their famous creations.
But within a few hours, Broadley’s phone was ringing — and it was Gayle and Oprah calling. They loved the pies so much that they invited the women to come on the Oprah show and listed the pies in Oprah’s “favorite things” in her magazine. With that Midas touch, the little pie shop that could had more orders than it could fill.
Broadley was familiar with an agency called Cape Abilities that helps adults with disabilities find meaningful employment. She imagined that there were adults with disabilities who could perform many of the tasks required to make her company more efficient, including peeling apples, baking pies and assembling and labeling boxes.
“Being familiar with Cape Abilities from my days at the bank, I realized that was the organization we could have a substantial impact upon,” she explains. The Pie Company built a new production kitchen at the Cape Abilities facility and began hiring and training the adults it serves. Over the years, the company has trained and hired well over 50 of them. For some it’s a stepping stone to other jobs, and for others, it’s the beginning of a career.
The vision worked — for the company, the new employees, and the Cape Cod community. Employee Elaine Bena shares, “I enjoy the people and learning about working in a kitchen making pies is like an art. I take pride in my work.”
The Centerville Pie Company owners have noticed a change in the Cape Cod business community since they began partnering with Cape Abilities. Now, many more local businesses are doing the same thing and giving Cape Abilities workers a chance. Those workers “are the lifeblood of our organization,” Broadley says.