by Mike Hays
Holidays will never be the same. Thanksgiving is unimaginable without the aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove from a Pie Lady & Son pumpkin pie; likewise, July 4th without bright cherries in a walnut-crumb crust, Labor Day without pecan pie, and President’s Day without apple and cranberry pie. What’s more, Covid-19 has taken not only our favorite local pies, but also the sweet smiles of owners Wil and Bri Tyler. Pie Lady & Son closed on March 21, filed for bankruptcy on April 11, barely a year after moving into a new space in downtown Nyack.
In a heartfelt personal letter on their Instagram account, Bri writes, “We did not come to this decision (to close permanently) lightly. We had a chance to process this for a while in silence for which we are grateful. I understand it is not just my heart that is broken. We have all lost something.” The comments were full of sad, dejected, and appreciative lovers of the business the Tylers built. Pie Lady & Son was a childhood dream baked for a generation. It is an iconic Nyack story, one that touched our hearts as well as our sweet toothes.
The Pie Lady
The origin of the Pie Lady business is the stuff of Nyack legend. Deborah Tyler began making and selling pies from the family home in 1995. The business grew through word of mouth. Customers who purchased a pie always came back for another at her back porch door, at 35 Burd Street in Nyack. Villagers began to call her the Pie Lady, and the name stuck. Word spread quickly that her homemade pies were simply the best in the region. By 2001, so many customers were coming to her door that she made the decision to stop selling pies. Like bees without a hive, Nyack villagers were soon wandering the streets looking for pies.
Growing up with pie
Pie Lady’s son, Wil Tyler, remembers thinking that it wasn’t unusual to have so many pies in the house, nor was it unusual that his bedroom was turned into a bakery. He thought it was something that every family did. Bri, one of his younger sisters, remembers Wil as a kid asking, “Mom, will you teach me to bake pies?” Little did she know that it would be Wil’s entrepreneurial drive that created a new pie business.
It’s back: Pie Lady & Son
Wil Tyler worked for a small business as a marketeer after graduating from college, but all the while he dreamed of starting his own business. Realizing that his family already owned a recognized brand in Pie Lady, and with his primal pie DNA, Wil decided to revive the business in 2010. The naming of the business was natural: Pie Lady & Son. Simple, yet catchy.
Wil and his father first started selling pies at the Nyack Farmers’ Market. The next step, and part of Wil’s original plan, was creating a retail presence in Upper Nyack. At this point, Deborah was still involved in the business, but only as a master taster and quality control expert. Wil’s sister Bri, who is also involved in the business, remembers that their first baking efforts needed work, at least according to mom. Ever since, with her master guidance, quality has been a given.
What makes a good pie?
The Tylers may be holding back on the secret formula, but Wil claims that their pies are great because of their butter crust–anybody can make a good filling. Those with favorite fillings–not to mention home bakers–will probably disagree.
Pie Lady’s homemade pie menu focused on a consistent group of 11 favorites, including a variety of fruit pies, pumpkin, chocolate, and pecan, in differing sizes. From time to time, Pie Lady tried new flavors. For a while, pineapple was in fashion with customers. The retail store, driven by Bri’s sunny presence, served coffee, slices (with or without ice cream and whipped cream), and scoops of Janes ice cream, a Hudson Valley favorite. To top it off, there were homemade cookies and muffins.
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A future cut short
Building on their success at their Upper Nyack location, Pie Lady & Son moved to a larger space in downtown Nyack in January, 2019. The homey space on Main St. was a hit, and the future looked bright until Covid-19 struck 15 months later. Adding to its human toll, the pandemic has now put an end to 25 years of legend and sweet memories created by the simplicity of pies. Our pie memories will remain with us no matter what the future brings. God, they made a damn good slice of pie!
See Also: Nyack Sketch Log: The Pie Lady … & Son
Michael Hays is a 30-year resident of the Nyacks. Hays grew up the son of a professor and nurse in Champaign, Illinois. He has recently retired from a long career in educational publishing with Prentice-Hall and McGraw-Hill. Hays is an avid cyclist, amateur historian and photographer, gardener, and dog walker. He has enjoyed more years than he cares to count with his beautiful companion, Bernie Richey. You can follow him on Instagram as UpperNyackMike.