Heistand works at Mom’s Pies, builds bond with grandmother

After about an hour of traveling through the long and winding roads, Erica Heistand (12) and her mom, Laurie, are greeted by the quaint sign, Welcome to Julian.

The roads are familiar, reminding her of her childhood, the days of summer programs, camping with her family, visiting her grandma.

All of these visits in all of these years of her life are pulled together by a trip to Mom’s Pies, the popular pie shop owned by her grandma.

Her grandma, Anita Nichols, started Mom’s Pies in 1984, and has been happily serving delicious pies since. The shop’s menu and size have expanded, but the warm atmosphere remains.

The shop has been run with the help of family for years, with her grandma, uncle, mother, and herself all working at the shop. Heistand said that everyone in the family plays a role in the success of the shop.

It hasn’t always been about success for Heistand and her family, though.

Walking into the shop, she is reminded of the Thanksgiving days of her childhood, selling pies out of the back door with her uncle and brother. She was 10 years old the first time she worked at the shop in this way.

Every year before that she would watch her family behind the counters, waiting for the day when she should help with them. Nearly every Thanksgiving since her first time helping out, she’s been at the same back door, the warmth of the atmosphere and her grandma’s appreciation dissolving the cool Julian winds.

But it’s not Thanksgiving yet, and this time Heistand approaches the pie shop to help in a different way, inside the shop rather than at the back door.

The busy season is approaching, and Heistand is always looking for ways to pitch in at the family-owned shop when she has time.

But, Heistand finds that working inside the shop is much different than helping her uncle out at the back door.

She is tasked with boxing pies and bussing tables, either being surrounded by people or racks upon racks of pies.

Floor to the ceiling, pies overcrowd the small, square room. The smells of strawberry rhubarb, apple, berry and pecan all melt together in the room and deliciously numb her nose. The day has just begun, and Heistand notices a line already forming out the door and around the corner.

Heistand navigates the cramped room with pies left and right, looking for the right flavored pies to put in the right boxes, all while avoiding a collision with the other workers. She works until the racks are empty, and then until the store is closed.

She said that the busy activities throughout the day left her exhausted, and she rarely had the chance to even see her grandma.

“I didn’t get to see her a lot but I know that it makes her really happy when I show interest in the business and help out in the shop,” Heistand said. “It’s our way of relating to each other.”

Whether she and the family were together baking Christmas cookies in the ovens in the shop or separated around the shop filling different roles, Heistand said she feels the relationship between herself and her family, especially her grandma, strengthen.

Although a big part of these relationships revolve around working together in the family business, Heistand said that she plans on going a different direction with her life, and feels no pressure to keep the business going.

“[My grandma is] not pushing me to work here during college or major in accounting or anything,” she said. “Mom’s Pies might not end with my grandma, but it’s not necessarily going to stay with my family, and my grandma is okay with that.”

Heistand said she will never forget the memories that are laced in the store, the visits that always end in empty pie boxes and full stomachs.

It was with these sweet exchanges that Heistand felt their relationship grow. Their times together didn’t always have to involve mouths full of words,  as mouths full of pie can embody the same amount of love shared between them.

She said she will always cherish the bond that she formed with her grandma and the memories that she made through her visits to the shop and her time spent helping the family.