The Sweet Southern Sojourn

IMG_9010By Reed Richardson

The downtown radius of Greensboro, Ala. compares to the size of a regulation football field. However, right in the middle of it all is a simple pie shop that sure knows how to make an impression.

PieLab is the sweet spot to stop for any explorer passing through lower Alabama, especially if exceptional pie makes you weak in the knees. Flavors range from the all-American apple pie to the unusual Greek yogurt cheesecake pie.

“But butterscotch pecan is the top seller of everything,” staffer John Wilkerson says.

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While the dessert pie is a specialty to the shop, PieLab sells a handful of savory pies like pizza and quiche for hungrier customers. “No matter what day it is, there is always a quiche option,” Wilkerson says.

As customers come and go from the counter, Wilkerson mentions that the shop is often filled with travelers looking for a bite to eat or an afternoon sugar rush. “Lots of out-of-towners are always stopping in as they pass through, but it’s also a place to bring people together through pie and conversation,” he says.

Wilkerson’s comment refers back to the beginning of PieLab, a social entrepreneurship plan started by Project M in 2009, and now sponsored by Hale Empowerment and Revitalization Organization, or HERO for short.

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PieLab is a shining star in Hale County, one of the poorest counties in all of Alabama. In conjunction with HERO and Project M, the business works as a facility for economic revitalization, job training and people-pleasing pie. Their mission: “Pie + Conversation = Social Change.”

Customer and out-of-towner Lauren Bates says, “They have a gift when it comes to entrepreneurship. They are using the resources they have in their formula for success. I just wish I lived closer. I would go a lot more.”

With such friendly vibrations, it is easy to see the appeal. Staffers and locals alike welcome customers in with cheer and a quest to get to know you. “You come to the store and talk to someone you might not talk to on the street. It’s amazing what a good slice of pie can do,” Wilkerson says.

With a big bite of lemon icebox pie, Bates confirms, “You never feel like you’re eating alone.”

Located just two hours from Birmingham, Greensboro is a wonderful Southern sojourn for both city and country folk. After a slice of goodness, take a stroll through the square. An eco-friendly bike shop, a quaint little library and a friendly antique shop beg to be explored.

 

Photos by Reed Richardson