One bright silver lining to the utter mayhem of the pandemic is the necessary drive to innovate. Business closures alone have swept jobs into a river of uncertainty. School closures and remote learning have upended family life. Social distancing has muted social life.
Some are lucky to continue their work remotely while others are forced to scan the horizon for work that may be far afield of their talents. Innovators take the leap of faith and strike out on their own.
One fantastic example of this has been Melissa McGlynn’s Cottage Pies’ sudden appearance and immediate success, a savory vaccine for our time.
For three consecutive Saturdays, McGlynn and her husband, Walt Steffens have hauled a week’s work of their made-from-scratch frozen pot pies from the kitchen at Betterton American Legion to Saturday Market. It takes a week of baking to stock up enough pies for the market, and those are gone within minutes.
McGlynn is no novice when it comes to specialty baking. Cordon Bleu trained and five years of creating popular baked goodies at local bakeries and restaurants from Evergrain Bakery, JR’s, and Louisa’s Restaurant, she has cultivated a community following. But when COVID hit, work came to a halt.
“I was at Louisa’s in March and knew when Italy closed because of the pandemic we would be next in line. The day Memo closed the restaurant closed, I had pastries in the oven.”
The next couple of months were tough.
“I sat around in depression and realized the pandemic wasn’t going away anytime soon, but I couldn’t just sit around,” she says.
McGlynn and Steffens began to kick around a few ideas. “I wanted to head out on my own but wanted to make sure I wasn’t stepping on anyone’s toes.”
Recalling that Swanson pot pies were always a winner at dinner as a kid, McGlynn began to consider creating a medley of pot pies. It seemed the perfect fit. Then things began to fall into place.
Meeting the rigid Health Department requirements for licensing, McGlynn searched for a kitchen and found her new home at Betterton American Legion.
“The licensing took months, and I couldn’t have done it without Erica at the Health Department who took time out of her emergency level schedule dealing with the pandemic. In the meantime, I tested a few recipes in my kitchen, starting with chicken pot pies, the universal comfort food.”
These days she offers a full menu including Chicken Pie, Beef Vegetable Pie, “BOM” Pie (Beef, Onion, Mushroom, Jarlsberg cheese), Shepherd’s Pie, Vegetable Pie, Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie, Aussie Pie, and a seasonal fruit pie. Last week it was Apple, Walnut, and Salted Caramel Apple. And yes, everything is from scratch, from the pie dough to the caramel.
Struck with sudden success, McGlynn looks to the future. At this point, she does not take orders. It’s a first-come, first-served offering that works well as she refines the process and logistics of having 200 pot pies ready by Saturday.
“We’re excited by the challenge,” McGlynn says. “I’m at capacity now and working on expanding the business at a healthy pace,” she adds.
Indeed, the town is ready. If you want one of McGlynn’s Cottage Pies, you have to get to Saturday Market early. Very early. Everyone knows comfort is one pot pie away.
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