For years, Long I Pie owner Shauna Lott Harman has been peddling excellent pies through her own bakery, farmers' markets, beer pairing events and word of mouth, but the pandemic has put all of that on pause. But despite the shutdown, Lott is making sure that her love of baking gets shared with anyone who wishes to bask in it, even if she isn't currently baking as many pies. One way she's sharing is with a weekly online baking class.
"I decided to do the Virtual Baking Club because I just thought that people might need some community and joy in the midst of this isolation; I know it's been my light during the week," says Harman, who started the club in March. "My philosophy is that pie is a mode to sit around a table and build relationships, so why not teach people how to make it so they can do it with their family and friends?"
Each Sunday, Harman hosts a free virtual baking class on Zoom, which has included instructions for making carrot whoopie pies, homemade Oreos, biscuits, cornbread and more. So far, around 150 people have signed up from all over the country. Some, she says, pop in and out, while others have joined in every week almost as a weekend ritual.
"We have people from all over the country now, whole families, and it's become an activity for some people who live far from their family," says the baker, who plans on keeping the classes free for May and then may charge a small fee after that. "For being in isolation, this time has brought a deeper community among people, in a weird way. Before, I would never be doing a virtual baking club on Sundays from my own kitchen with people across the country."
Right now, it's the main thing she's doing in the kitchen since business at Long I Pie has mostly come to a halt. She's had wedding orders postponed and events canceled, and she lost a big source of revenue when Pi Day festivities were shut down on March 14.
"It doesn't make sense for us to do one-off pies at this time due to the profit margin," she says. "I've just been trying to focus on giving joy when I can from delivering extra baked goods from the baking club on Sundays or thinking through how our business can shift for the better during this season."
Instead of baking, she has been working at her full-time marketing management job at a nonprofit organization. She also has been enamored with and worried about her ten-month-old puppy, Nora Funshine, who had to have surgery this past month. Otherwise, life is the same as it is for many people in stay-at-home mode. She's planning a garden, attending virtual happy hours with friends, and trying, like many others, to not go crazy.
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Once the markets and businesses where she typically sells her baked goods open up again, Harman hopes to get involved in a bakery co-op, something she tried to do a few years ago when she was baking out of Temple Bakery in RiNo. That venture didn't pan out, but she's in talks with other bakers and hopes to get something going soon.
"My dream is to have a baking co-op, because I love baking, which is why I've done the virtual baking club," she says, adding that before the shutdown she did bake sales with five to ten bakers in a space. "Whatever is in the future, I think community is always going to be at the heart of it for me."
Until then, catch her live at 1 p.m. on Sundays and learn about what she's whipping up while following along in your own kitchen. To join, email Hello@thelongipie.com or message the shop on the Long I Pie Facebook page to get on the list, and look forward to baking soft pretzels, cookies and pizza dough in upcoming classes. While it's not the same as getting one of Harman's tasty honey-lavender and bourbon-chocolate-pecan pies, at least it's a step in the right direction until the baker can figure out a new normal.