Painted lettering on the hydro poles lining the quiet country road whets your appetite as you approach: “Pies / Butter tarts” and an arrow pointing to deliciousness ahead.
A little farther along, a whirligig-topped sign advertises “Fresh Baked Pies” and “Just Tarts Tuesdays” with another arrow pointing across the street.
Turning across the street, you see the pie shop beside the road in all its grandeur:
To a downtowner, life seems a little different in the rural belt surrounding the city. Roads are quiet (and sometimes not even paved), vistas are grand, and payment is on the honour system. But you don’t have to travel far to get a taste of the country. You don’t even have to leave the city: this pie stand sits in front of a home on the Toronto side of Scarborough-Pickering Townline, which separates Toronto from Durham Region north of Finch Avenue.
Glenn started the pie stand about six years ago as a sideline when he began taking care of his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, at the house. She couldn’t be left alone and he was restless at the house all day long, so decided to start baking one day. Glenn bakes all of the pies and tarts himself but mostly uses his mother’s original recipes. The stand was named Mary’s Pies in her honour and started as just a table and sign in front of the house. “I can still remember the first one I sold.” And yes, that first customer still buys pies. Glenn built the stand later and keeps it open from “12:30–dark” 7 days a week.
There’s no staff and the counter is self-serve. You’ll find an assortment of fresh pies or tarts inside the stand on any given day, along with a simple payment jar to drop off $9 for each pie or $5 for a half-dozen tarts.
The honour payment system works out well. “People just freak out about the honour system,” but Glenn says that he’s never lost money from the jar. “Sometimes people come and, you know, they’re short a little bit and you find a little note in the jar there with some money and it says, ‘I was short such and such the other day and here’s the money.'” He adds, “People like to be trusted.” Still, some people won’t leave money in the jar and bring it up to the front door of the house instead. He does lose the occasional pie to kids but he shrugs it off, recalling his own youth. “We used to do it too, eh?”
Glenn sells up to 80 pies a week in his summer peak season along with a couple of dozen 6-packs of butter tarts on Just Tarts Tuesdays. He’ll bake to order and takes requests.
Can he see himself doing it for another six years? “I dunno, man,” he chuckles. “It is a lot of work. I’ll keep it going for a while…”