Laid-off producer becomes proud pie maker
March 14th, 2012
06:15 PM ET
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Dave Tuttle has a passion for pie. "Let's face it. Pie is wonderful stuff,” he says. “It makes people feel great.” And it would be hard for anyone to argue that point, after seeing and smelling one of his signature double crusted fruit pies as it emerges, hot and steaming, from the oven.

But Tuttle's passion grew more out of necessity than culinary curiosity. After a 20-year career in film and television, Tuttle found himself unemployed in 2008 during the height of the recession, as the industry was shedding jobs.

"For about a year, I really made it full time to try to find a job, to get back into the business because that's what I had known for 20 years," Tuttle says. But after that year, there was still no job, and even less savings. It was time to try something new.

The idea for that "something” came at a dinner party where, instead of wine, Tuttle had brought a homemade pie. "We're sitting around with friends," Tuttle recalls, "and they said, you know Dave, you really should start to sell these pies. And my wife's like – 'yes, you need to do something!'," he laughs. "And I said okay, that's cool...maybe I'll try it.”

Tuttle grew up in Croton on Hudson, New York – the same small village about 30 miles north of Manhattan where he and his family live today. His community ties helped him kick off the business with a "beta group" of pie tasters, who would place orders and give feedback.

He named his business "Tuttle's Homemade."

As word spread, his pies started ending up on dinner tables all over town, and turned Tuttle into something of a local celebrity. "The email blast would extend and extend out further, to the point where I was making 50 to 75 pies a week out of my apartment,” he says.

When he could no longer accommodate his growing business at home- "I was driving my wife crazy and the kids couldn’t go into the kitchen" – he made bartering arrangements with local restaurants – trading pies for kitchen space.

During a recent visit, the flour was flying as Tuttle darted around the back kitchen of Grouchy Gabe's Grill – busy making not only his signature apple pies, but also pear tarts and chicken pot pies. It's labor intensive work, and Tuttle approaches every stage in the process with precision and care.

Flour, shortening and water are combined in a special way to yield the perfect crust – the key to pie greatness. (Yes – notes were taken). He uses only fruit that's in season. For his apple pie, no less than three varieties of apples are used, all from local Hudson Valley orchards. The pies bake in gas ovens and are turned regularly, creating just the right amount of browning.

A 2010 New York Times review said "few can turn out a pie like Mr. Tuttle,” calling his crust “light but substantial” and the fillings “fresh and true."

He sells the pies for $15 at local restaurants and farmers markets, but still hand delivers up to 200 pies a month. He'd like to take his business to the next level, and has his eye on a local building for sale that could accommodate a pie shop. "I could definitely see Tuttle's Homemade right there," he says – pointing to the storefront of what's now a deli. "I'm ready to go to the next stop, but it's a big step," he says.

That step may be more like a leap, since his months of unemployment hurt his credit score and , though demand for small business loans it up overall , lending is still tight. Tuttle says he and other entrepreneurs can help the economic recovery, if allowed to expand and hire employees.

"I was really hoping that this recession was going to show both the banks and our government that there's an opportunity here for people like myself who reinvented myself to start new businesses, but they’re going to need some help," he says.

While he hopes someday to exceed his pre-recession salary, Tuttle says the experience has helped him realize there’s more to life than a paycheck. "Now it's more about family, it's about being connected back to my community, it's about the simpler things of pleasing someone, making someone happy,” he says. "What I was doing before was great, and it was very satisfying and I loved it. But it wasn't as real as what I'm doing now."

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Filed under: Business and Farming News • News • Pie • Small Business • Video


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soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Bob

    Why are people saying things like "Now's it time for big bank business and the government to get behind this guy" and " While the government is bailing out the "too big to fail" guys, they should look at the small and determined business creators."?

    Let this guy sink or swim on his own. More laws, regulations, taxes, and government programs are not the solution to every problem. I think our society is doomed by people who think that way – unfortunately about 95% of the population.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:44 am |
    • Becky c

      Really Bob? You just sound like another angry middle aged white guy. You've been listening to too much Rush Limbaugh.

      March 19, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  2. stephen

    I'm gonna bake some pies right now!

    March 15, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  3. none of your business

    Umm..it was not the recession, this guy had not worked in the last 6 years. why do people feel the need to stretch (and that's being kind) the truth? Otherwise the story is uninteresting. Poor producer dude NOT. IMDB him

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2170040/

    March 15, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Honestgoofy

      @none of your business – Wow your quick to judge someone with out all of the facts.. like someone who is jealous?
      Here is the real site for Mr. Tuttle.His last job according to this site, which is not his resume, was in 2007.

      http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0878333/

      March 15, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  4. Pie a la fromage

    There's an interesting comfort to be had in pies that I've never known – only seen. Interesting.

    March 15, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  5. Chef

    I'm in the exact same boat....laid off from a very well known animation studio and decided to follow my baking passion.

    Even with great products and word of mouth notoriety, without financial support factoring in extenuating circumstances from economic hardship, it's really hard to keep the flour flying!

    But it is a labor of love....

    March 15, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • WestCoastAngel

      Congrats! Keep up the good work!

      March 15, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  6. KWDragon

    Great story! While the government is bailing out the "too big to fail" guys, they should look at the small and determined business creators. I applaud Mr. Tuttle for both going on his own to make this happen and readjusting his priorities to make it work for him and for his family. Awesome! The best new business models may be the very old business models updated.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  7. carlesgibbons

    What’s more clear with Employment report is that when it comes to joblessness, having a college degree is more important than ever that is why we need the help of High Speed Universities now

    March 15, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • John

      High Speed Universities. If you think attending a physical college where groups of people meet to learn and discuss the mysteries of the world is anywhere near the same thing as logging onto a website in your jammies for a cut & paste education, then you have no understanding of what a university is.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
      • WestCoastAngel

        I think everyone learns at their own pace in an environment in which they are most comfortable. For some, that is online learning. For others (myself included), it is a physical classroom...the only way I can really learn. Let's encourage all types of learning and not bash someone who wants to better themselves, no matter the forum!!

        March 15, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  8. Beek

    Love this story. Now's it time for big bank business and the government to get behind this guy and give him what he needs for success....and, I want one of his pies!

    March 14, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
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