Shortly after moving to LA, I received the following text from a friend back in New York:
“A package is on your front door step. Sorry you missed the delivery person. Enjoy!!! Also, your house is VERY cute!”
I know, right? Less trusting minds might be a little freaked out at what was waiting for us back home and/or concerned our friend had turned transcontinental stalker. But, as it turned out, that package was a hand-made, crumb-top apple pie from our friend’s sister, Emily Cofrancesco, owner and baker extraordinaire at I Heart Pies, “a Los Angeles based pie company specializing in flaky, fresh, local, organic, simply out of this world delicious pies and custom desserts.”
Emily and her husband, Nick, who runs the business with her part-time, create sweet and savory pies using the freshest, highest quality ingredients possible, offering delivery for LA-area residents. Though their baked goods aren’t exclusively vegan, I Heart Pies does offer a pretty deep selection of vegan fruit pies. We liked the ones we tried so much, we wanted to find out more about the company. So we took a few minutes to talk with Emily about starting up a small business in Los Angeles, what’s on the horizon for the company, and how Jon Hamm + a cute little bulldog totally dig her pies. Read on. Fair warning though—if you haven’t had lunch yet, you’re in for a world of hurt.
raven + crow studio: So, first off, tell us how you ended up in LA? I know you’re from…a farm in Jersey originally, right?
Emily Cofrancesco: I grew up in Allendale, NJ, located in northern New Jersey—a small suburb of NYC. I then went to Emerson College in Boston, MA. During my sophomore year, I traveled to the Netherlands for a semester abroad. It was in the Netherlands where I met Nick and we started our friendship when we returned to Boston. Both Nick and I graduated early (in 3 1/2 years), but our last semester at Emerson was located in Los Angeles for hands on experience working in Hollywood. Which is how I ended up in LA.
Ah, wow. So, do you have a background in the culinary arts or baking or has it always juts been a personal passion?
My Mom was always baking and cooking during my childhood. She would spoil me so much with different baked goods made from scratch practically every afternoon. I spent a lot of time hanging out in the kitchen with her.
I’ve actually been lucky enough to have met your mom a couple times now—she’s so nice. I could totally see her baking for you all every day. Count the rest of us jealous. How + when did I Heart Pies start then?
I decided to go back to pastry school in 2006, while working full time in the entertainment industry. I Heart Pies (IHP) started in 2007. I graduated from culinary school and was partially working in the TV industry. Nick and I thought ‘Why not sell pies for Thanksgiving to make money?’ So we did! We sold a total of 25 pies to friends, family, and coworkers, which at the time seemed like a lot!
I mean, making 25 pies certainly sounds like a lot. So was it something you’d always wanted to do then?
So, IHP was a side business at first and then it became full time. I was also making all different types of pastries. Anything people wanted, I would make it. Now we’re just focused on pies and cookies, mainly.
What is it about pies that sets them apart in your mind from other desserts? Why are pies…special to you? …if that’s not too Barbara Walters for you.
I love pies because they are so versatile. You can literally put anything in them—sweet or savory. They also were one of my favorite desserts growing up. My Mom made the best peach pie. I absolutely, hands-down, love peaches. So peach pie gets me every time.
I now realize I should have done this interview after eating, not before. Back when we lived in Brooklyn, we always joked that, after the whole cupcake trend, pies would be the next the wave to sweep over the nation. Turns out, it kinda was. Now we’re awash in a sea of bacon. Any thoughts on the whole food trend thing?
Food trends come and go. Pies will be here forever. They go back in history for thousands of years; pies have always been around.
Pie-making—the oldest profession. Onto the behind the scenes stuff—what’s it like making your life partner your business partner also? I mean, we do it, but I feel like the dynamic’s totally different based on the intricacies of the two relationships—personal + business. Is it tricky, you think?
I’m full-time at IHP, while Nick works our special events, and makes deliveries. His day job is a Production Supervisor on Family Guy. He’s worked on the Emmy nominated television show for 6 years.
Oh, wow. I know a lot of people who’d like to sit down with him and pick his brain on that show. Who did your logo‽ We totally love it!
Christopher Lee created our logo. He asked us to send him a list of emotions, characters, and words to describe our company. Our logo is his first attempt. He created Mr. Octopie and has made so many people happy and love our company. The sweetest part is he created this for our wedding gift. So much love.
We saw you provided a cherry pie for a shoot with John Hamm and a cute little bulldog. You didn’t get to attend the shoot, by chance, did you?
Our cherry pie was featured in a Vanity Fair photo shoot with Jon Hamm—he was their June cover story. I knew it was for a photo shoot, but found out that it was Jon Hamm only when they picked up the pies from our kitchen. I wish we could have been on set, but am very thankful for the handsome photo!
Handsome, indeed. Do you think you’d ever expand your vegan options? The fruit pies are AMAZING, but looking at your other sweet and savory pies, I know some of those could be done vegan with a few substitutions. Would you ever be into that? We’d TOTALLY love to help you with that if you’re open to it.
Right now we only have vegan fruit pies available on our website. We also make vegan savory pies, which you can special order, or we have them available at events. We would definitely be interested in expanding our vegan options.
Alright, well, get your suggestion box ready. Do you think you’d ever want to open up a storefront for I Heart Pies or do you prefer this model?
Having a storefront has always been in our minds. We’ve come really close to leasing, but didn’t work out in the end. It was a blessing in disguise because now we aren’t sure that is the best path for us right now.
Well, we’ll keep an eye out. Do you have any plans for some new pies you hope to add to the rotation?
We are always thinking up new pie ideas. Right now we are working on a couple new flavors that are too top secret to mention!
Any advice to people thinking about starting their own small business?
Yes—you don’t know what you’re doing, but somehow have to figure it all out everyday. It’s a lot of work, so passion takes on a huge role. Love what you do and you will be happy.
Nice. How about favorite pie you’ve ever had that you didn’t make?
The Purple Forest pie, created by Nick! Purple Forest pie has a speculoos cookie crust, speculoos mousse on the bottom and a black currant mouse on top (brown and purple colors, creating the purple forest). He thought of the whole pie concept and made it for me to taste—it was amazing! I loved the unique flavors he combined. Nick creates a lot of pie flavors and he’s top chef in our family. His savory cooking is outstanding! Love when he cooks!
Awesome. Finally, favorite thing about LA?
There are so many things I love about LA. I’ve lived here for 11 years! The food, weather, beach, people, landscape, and diversity are really close to my heart. It’s been so fun getting to know this city and all it’s little beautiful pockets of beauty!
Well-put. Thanks for talking with us, Emily!
If you’re in the LA area, you can order I Heart Pies baked goods for delivery right to your door. Not in LA? You can also get pies + cookies shipped to you if you want to give them a try. Just be sure to note if you’d like your fruit pie to be made vegan.
Below, I Heart Pies’ excellent branding; Katie’s excited about pie note. Vanity Fair photo of Jon Hamm above by Sam Jones.