For David Segal, owner of Pie in the Sky Bakery, cooking has been a passion his entire life. Yet this past year he has ventured into the realm of baking, completely focused on his new business of selling gluten-free cheesecakes and key-lime pies.
The decision to sell the desserts stemmed from Segal’s childhood. He grew up in Miami with a mother who loved to bake, and a key lime tree in his backyard that served as the supplier of his first homemade key lime pie. He says cheesecakes were also a regular part of his youth, and he decided to try to sell the two desserts he loved the most, and the two he was best at making.
“You go with what you know,” he says. Last September, Segal, 53, began successfully selling his desserts at Berry Best Smoothies, a shop he owned for five years until it closed last May. One evening, as Segal was toying with the idea of selling his baked goods as a business, he and his wife struck inspiration on a drive to dinner.
“I said ‘Maybe this is just a pie in the sky idea,’” Segal says. “We looked at each other and said, ‘That’s a great name!’” The name stuck, and Segal began to make Pie in the Sky Bakery a reality. His cheesecakes and pies were being sold at the Boulder Farmers’ Market along with his “Berry Best Smoothies,” which he has been vending there for 18 years. He says that he felt confident about his desserts, especially since they were gluten-free.
“My wife and I went gluten-free six years ago, and it has made a big difference in our lives,” he says. “There weren’t a lot of gluten-free cheesecakes on the market, and I thought, ‘I can do that!’” His first major distributor of Pie in the Sky Bakery became the then-newly opened Alfalfa’s Market. His desserts were quickly picked up by Lucky’s Market, Niwot Market and Lolita’s Market & Deli. In April of this year, he approached Whole Foods Market, and his cheesecakes and pies were approved for the chain’s entire Western region — 27 stores — early this month.
“I’m taking it one step at a time. Considering that we’ve only been doing this for a year, we have a lot of recognition,” Segal says. “I feel pretty pleased with what we have accomplished.”
Segal says that he plans to keep his business small, and expand only as sales grow and more baking is necessary. For now, he and his assistant baker, Brenda Alderete, do all of the baking themselves, usually two days a week. In order to accommodate all of the baking, Segal says that he was fortunate to be able to rent space in the existing Brillig Works Bakery & Café.
“I want to make sure that every product that goes out the door is just right,” he says.
Segal is no stranger to the food industry. He attended the Culinary Institute of America and subsequently worked in several restaurants. He took a 10-year break from food to pursue real estate and landed back in the food business in 1993. It was then that he became fully immersed in selling Berry Best Smoothies at various locations before running his own shop.
Despite his experience in retail shops, he plans to stay in the wholesale business and focus on bringing his products to more local stores for now.
“Being in retail, I have developed a really good feel for what people are looking for, especially in a gluten-free market,” he says. “I want to cultivate a local reputation.”
Segal is enthusiastic about selling his desserts.
He says he is especially excited to sell his seasonal pumpkin cheesecake because he knows people will love it. Currently Pie in the Sky Bakery sells key lime pie flavors in classic, mango and toasted coconut, and cheesecake flavors in strawberry, blueberry and chocolate mousse. Segal has plans to expand the flavors.
“I’m always thinking of new flavors,” he says. “I’ve probably got 100 ideas in my head.”
As the fall weather wanes and the Boulder Farmers’ Market winds down for the season, Segal will put his smoothie business aside for the winter and will solely focus on Pie in the Sky Bakery and his delectable desserts.
“Whole Foods and local grocery stores is where I really want to get myself established this year,” he says.