Bakery gives Clanton popularity beyond peaches
By Allison Law
The Chilton County city of Clanton is well known for its peaches, and for its shops right off Interstate 65 that welcome weary travelers with produce, jams and jellies, ice cream and just about anything else you’d want to eat.
But now, Clanton may become known for the sweet treats and tasty breakfast foods served up at Pies by Mike, the family-owned bakery and coffee shop that’s been open in its location on Lay Dam Road since 2020. The bakery’s slogan, “incrediliciously good,” is a little hard to pronounce, and owner Mike Graham admits he sort of made it up. But it seems to fit the character of the place, with rows and rows of delectable pies available whole or by the slice, served up with its own blend of coffee.
Mike says he’s always enjoyed cooking, and he started making the Tollhouse pie years ago when he and his wife, Alice, had friends over. Many friends told him for years that he needed to sell the pies, but he never gave it a serious thought.
Then in 2014, the Alabama Cottage Food Law took effect, which allowed individuals to produce certain foods in their homes to sell to the public. A class was offered in Clanton, so Mike took it and became certified.
Mike started out small – he’d make several kinds of pies and take samples to local businesses, asking if they’d like to buy a pie. The first year, he sold 268 pies; the next year, that number doubled. And it kept growing.
“We had to decide, do we want to scale it back, or get out of the house?” The Grahams took the leap and rented a small former cafe for its commercial kitchen; eventually, they began serving 15 restaurants. Mike hadn’t planned on entering the retail business, but when the landlord decided to sell the property, the business had to move.
They moved to the current location on Jan. 22, 2020, with a grand opening on March 14, 2020. Just a few days later, Covid began to shut down restaurants and businesses, changing life for all of us.
“During Covid, if we had stayed in the same location (the little cafe), I don’t think we would have survived it,” Mike says. “All we had pretty much was wholesale. During Covid, we lost all but two of our restaurants.
“Alice is quick to point out, the good Lord was looking out for us.”
Now, retail has far surpassed the wholesale operation, though Pies by Mike still services several stores, either at the holiday season or year-round, with anywhere from one or two pie flavors to several, depending on the location.
“That was just a huge blessing that we got here,” Mike says. “The Lord has really blessed us. The community has gotten behind us.”
The bakery has a stable of about 25 sweet pies, though not all are available every day. There are all kinds, including pecan (the best-seller), tollhouse (a close second), key lime and pineapple cream (which run neck-and-neck for a distant third). Also on the menu, depending on the day, are fudge (one of Mike’s personal favorites), lemon mousse, peanut butter, pina colada, pumpkin, strawberry banana and strawberry cream, among others.
On this particular weekday, there were eight different flavors; sometimes they’ll have as many as 10 or 12, or as few as four or five, depending on the wholesale orders and other factors.
Pies by Mike also offers gluten free and diabetic-friendly pies, but those must be pre-ordered.
The “Southern breakfast pies” (Mike acknowledges they’re basically quiches, but he likes the sound of his better) are available in bacon, ham or sausage, whole or by the slice. Quilted pigs (Mike’s take on “pigs in a blanket, with fewer syllables”), Conecuh bites and sausage bites almost always sell out.
Mike realized they needed a special blend of coffee to serve at the eatery (Alice thinks it’s pretty funny that Mike doesn’t even drink coffee). They invited some “coffee snobs” in to help taste test, and after some customer voting and back and forth with the roaster, they settled on a blend. It’s sold at the store by the bean or ground, in half-pound or pound bags.
Asked about expansion, Mike is hesitant. “I’m not going to say never, but right now I just want to get enough staff on hand that can expand our hours a little bit.” Pies by Mike is open on Tuesday afternoons from 1 to 4:30 p.m. and from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; a goal of Mike’s is to start opening on Saturdays to catch the beach traffic along the interstate, but as it is for most businesses, the key is finding the right people to work, who understand good customer service and enjoy working with the public.
“We’re extremely friendly here,” Mike says. “People come in, they’re going to be welcomed.” As if on cue, a customer walks in, eager for a sweet treat.
Pies by Mike
1015 Lay Dam Road, Clanton, AL 35045
Hours: 1 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday
7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday-Friday