Update: Proper Pie, offering unique pies at affordable prices, is now open in Church Hill.
Previous from Oct. 23:
Get ready, Richmond: there are pies coming your way.
They may just not be the kind you’re used to. Proper Pie will open in Church Hill later this month and its two owners are eager to expand horizons as it pertains to the classic dessert.
"As soon as you say pie, people associate it with a sweet pie," said Nikki Price, co-owner of the new shop. "And we’ll have those too. It’s a pie shop. But our real focus will be the savory pie. We’ll have this traditional set-up where you can come in and have a piece of pie, some ice cream and a coffee and sit down and enjoy yourself."
Price will attempt to introduce the new treat alongside her husband, Neil Smith, a New Zealand native who claims to be the idea’s originator. He traveled the world and become frustrated with how difficult it was to find exactly what he was looking for.
"I just couldn’t get a decent pie and this seemed very strange to me," he said. "They had turnovers and pastries and bakeries, but as far as a pie that I was used to eating, you couldn’t find one. To be honest, I just wanted to go to a pie shop. So I opened my own."
Appropriately enough, Smith and Price met in 2006 while catering an event at the Coliseum. Smith, who used to be a traveling chef that catered to the likes of Nine Inch Nails while on the road, was in town for a tour. Price just so happened to be asked to step in and help a friend who was shorthanded. The two hit it off almost immediately, with Smith making it a point to organize a rendezvous when his rigorous schedule allowed. A wedding was not far behind.
Since being married, the coupled has extensively talked about opening a place of their own, an idea that was developed and solidified in a business startup class the duo took together through New Visions, New Ventures.
"We had a million ideas but we really narrowed it down in that class," Price said.
The idea that developed was perfected, and once the two had a game plan in place, decided to create a Kickstarter in an attempt to raise funds to help their idea become a reality.
The campaign had an initial goal of $15,000, which was reached by its conclusion last month. It offered contributors small incentives that ranged from a Proper Pie pint glass to a private party once the restaurant opened its doors.
"Kickstarter is a great way for anyone on the Internet to be small time investors and get something in return for it," Price explained. "The rewards are a little closer to monetary value as opposed to a traditional fundraising campaign, so it’s a little win-win for everybody—there’s no way I could have had the time to find 350 people who wanted to give us $20 or $25. Kickstarter helped us do that."
According to Price and Smith, those 350 people—all of whom donated a minimum of $5—were located all over the world, including local Richmonders who just wanted to contribute to a project they believed in.
"Some of our donors have been supportive members of the food community and people from other restaurants," Smith added. "Everybody in this town likes to look out for each other and realizes that it’s a ‘the more, the merrier’ mentality—the more quality that’s out there, the more people will come out eating."
Proper Pie will offer an extensive menu of pies that will include classic sweet pies and a wide variety of often unfamiliar meat pies. While the pair was still finalizing final price points, they hope to keep a 5-inch pie, comparable to the size of a personal pan pizza, at around $5, while a meal (pie and two appetizers) will hover around $10.
Price and Smith are hoping that by keeping their product affordable, their customers will develop a habit of enjoying their pies more than just once in a while.
"I think keeping a reasonable price point is a key factor to being a successful restaurant in Richmond—not being too expensive," Smith said. "Many of the successful places here in town keep their prices at an affordable level. We want to keep the price point down so people can afford to come out and eat two or three times a week if they want and it’s not going to break the bank."
Proper Pie is slated to open by the end of October. And if Smith and Price’s vision is accurate, it’s sure to make a splash in an already thriving Church Hill district.
"Everybody loves a food that reminds them of home," Smith said. "We aren’t trying to be fine dining; we just want to do honest food that’s proper and affordable."
Proper Pie is at 2505 E. Broad St. #100 in the old It Must Be Heaven.