By Brian Messenger
---- — METHUEN — It started Saturday morning, when crews at Mann Orchards began peeling 48,000 lbs. of apples. By Sunday at 3 a.m. the ovens were fired up. They’ve been baking ever since and won’t cool down until tonight.
It takes a lot of work to make, bake and box over 20,000 pies in a matter of days. But it’s become a Thanksgiving week tradition at Mann Orchards, which was so busy yesterday a two-man police detail was called in to direct traffic in the parking lot.
“It’s just non-stop,” said Matt Fitzgerald, whose family owns the farm stand and bakery. “Just make ‘em and bake ‘em. That’s all we can do. It’s pretty awesome to see ... This is the Super Bowl of pies. If you’re into pies, this is it.”
After digging into the turkey, pies take center stage on the Thanksgiving table. Across the region, local businesses are doing their part to supply families with their favorite holiday treats.
“I think it’s Pie Day and not Turkey Day, I really do,” said Theresa Burnley, owner of The Pie Guy, in Salem, N.H. “People want their dessert.”
The Pie Guy makes homemade pies for stores including Hannaford, Shaw’s and Stop & Shop. Burnley said the company expects to sell 100,000 pies this week, or about five times more than in a typical week.
“We definitely step up production,” said Burnley. “We’re working around the clock to meet our orders.”
In North Andover, Smolak Farms Bakery Manager Joanne Fiore oversaw a pie-making crew of about a dozen employees yesterday while another four boxed them up.
“Full production right now,” said Fiore. “(Today’s) a really big pick-up day. We’re trying to get everything organized. It smells really good.”
Fiore said Smolak Farms expects to sell well over a thousand pies this week.
“It’s almost as big as the turkey,” said Fiore. “Apple pie and pumpkin pie are a must. That’s what people look forward to.”
Back at Manns, Fitzgerald said license plates were spotted in the parking lot yesterday from New York, Connecticut and Vermont. Aisles in the farm stand were crowded with shoppers as dozens of employees hustled out back to get more pies on the shelves.
Last year, Fitzgerald said Mann’s sold 23,223 pies during Thanksgiving week.
“We want to do more,” said Fitzgerald. “And I think we’re on track. We feel good about it right now and we’re thankful for the customers’ support.”
How You Slice It Most popular pie at Mann Orchards: Apple Runners-up: Squash and Pumpkin Pies sold Thanksgiving week last year: 23,223