No crusty customers: Island store sets rules so more people get a piece of the pie

Norman Clow has a big list and he's checking it twice. The hot seller at Clow's Red and White general store in Hampshire, P.E.I., this time of year — his family's famous Christmas meat pies.

It all started when his father Bobby had an idea after seeing some frozen turkey, chicken and pork in the freezer, Clow said.

Bobby was still running the store at the time, and he decided he and his wife Verna were going to put that meat to use.

"He said, 'Verna, let's make some meat pies this year ... I think we can sell them,' he said and away he went," Clow said. "No stopping him."

Clow said it started with about 25 pies in the first year, all done in the regular kitchen oven. The next year, he figured they sold about 100 meat pies, and 300 the year after that. Clow said the family tradition of making the meat pies continues today.

"We had to upsize to a bigger oven and so now we can cook 24 pies at a time," he said. "And the sheer numbers is we don't stop baking all year-round, we go right straight through."

Brian Higgins/CBC

Clow said meat pies are a holiday tradition for some Island families, and there are many good spots on P.E.I. to pick out traditional family favourites.

A few years back, Clow had to change the rules at the general store for how people could obtain the precious pies.

No more pie orders

Customers can't pre-order meat pies, and can't buy more than two each.

A sign in the store explaining the rules even says that no meat pies will be "released" until 1 p.m., in order to let the fresh baked goods cool down.

People are able to line up after noon in order to get a ticket to ensure that they are able to get their holiday treats.

Brian Higgins/CBC

So far, most people seem to be understanding with the rule changes.

"One o'clock and only two pies at a time, it's hard to get the freezer filled up but it's fun," said customer Leith Stretch, who estimates he has been coming for the last seven or eight years.

"You can only get two per person so I am getting two," said first-time buyer Sarah MacLeod.

"I feel like it's a little crazy for meat pies, but I guess we will find out if it's worth it afterwards.… My mom asked me to and she likes meat pies."

Brian Higgins/CBC

Clow said because they bake them year-round, they usually have a healthy stock in the freezer. He said in 2018, they ran out on Dec. 11. This year, on Dec. 1.

Clow said they will be increasing production of the two meat pies — savoury and plain — leading up to Christmas. He expects to be making around 80 pies a day.

Clow said maybe this year — just maybe — he might even get one of his own pies.

"See, I don't get one every year so if one falls on the floor, I might get that one," he laughed.

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