It was noontime on Wednesday, just hours before Thanksgiving, and the stacks of pies at Sam Mazza’s Farm Market in Colchester were just beginning to look manageable.
The third-generation shop took more than 300 orders for about 1,500 pies this Thanksgiving season, according to Laurie Mazza-Bombard, owner and general manager.
Add to that 450-dozen freshly baked dinner rolls, all dusted perfectly with flour, and the quaint building was bursting at the seams with baked goods.
But despite the intense volume of patrons and pie fillings, the store was far from chaotic.
“We’ve been doing this so long, we’ve kind of got it down,” Mazza-Bombard said with a smile. “We know the order of things.”
Most customers place orders by phone or in person. New this year was an online feature – around 35 people requested pies directly through the website, Mazza-Bombard said. Orders began coming in as early as October.
It takes a dedicated team effort to make it through the holiday season at the bakery, Mazza-Bombard said. The store called in 11 employees, each with a particular job.
Their head baker began prepping the pies two weeks in advance, but didn’t start baking until last Tuesday afternoon. He worked for 17 hours straight, Mazza-Bombard said.
Jason Lockwood, a seasonal Sam Mazza’s employee, stood behind several banquet tables covered with white pie boxes. Highlighter in hand, Lockwood carefully marked the pie pick-ups on a well-organized spreadsheet.
Melissa Mazza, a co-owner, folded cardboard pie boxes until the wee hours of the morning.
Mazza-Bombard said customers appreciate that commitment and place their orders knowing they’ll be happy with the final product.
“We’ve built up some long-time customers. I think our quality is different than a big commercial grocery store,” she said. “They know it’s fresh, and I think they appreciate that [we’re] local.”
The store sees a peak in business around Christmas time, but staff say it’s nothing like the Thanksgiving pie rush. During the December holiday, folks are more likely to pick specialty items, Mazza-Bombard added.
During Thanksgiving, however, pies are just about everyone’s go-to favorite dessert.
Indeed, the Mazzas’ strong relationship with customers was evident throughout the afternoon. Half a dozen buyers stopped Mazza-Bombard for a hug in as many minutes.
Across the store, Cheryl Mazza Patterson, Mazza-Bombard’s sister and fellow co-owner, chatted with a couple about the merits of pumpkin pie, the season’s most popular pick: The store took 300 orders for it.
Apple made a strong second-place showing, Mazza-Bombard said, and chocolate crème snagged the third slot. Pies range from $11.95 to $13.95, and customers can chose from up to 18 flavor varieties.
Staff take note of the most popular flavors and make sure they have extras onsite for any last minute customers who don’t order in advance.
“Some people know there’s going to be something here,” Mazza-Bombard said. “If they’re not picky, they just come in and buy from [the extras].”
That’s a feature Jessica Kastner was thankful for last Wednesday afternoon. She’d promised to bring three Mazza pies to her holiday meal but forgot to call in advance. When she called the morning before Thanksgiving in a mild panic, Mazza-Bombard assured her all was well.
As Kastner paid for her pies, her wide-eyed toddler peeped through the glass display case at the sugary confections up for sale.
Mazza’s shop is a 15-minute drive for them, Kastner explained, but the local fare is well worth the excursion when compared to grocery store offerings.
“We come here all the time,” Kastner said. “From pumpkin picking to seeing the animals, it’s just what we do.”
That’s a message echoed across the shop. Emily Moore, a Boston resident, said she always makes a point to stop by when she visits a Colchester-based friend. Last Wednesday, they may have been the only customers in the entire shop not looking for some pies.
“We always come for the frosted sugar cookies,” Moore said, laughing.
“The one thing we’re out of!” Mazza-Bombard lamented.