First Day of PieLabPDX!


Friday was my first day! Exclamation point! Exclamation point! Finally I was able to legally stand on the corner with my little red and pink pie stand.The first game was Rock Paper Scissors. If we roshambo and I win, I get to pick what flavor pie you get. If you win, you choose.

The first day, delayed though it was, went off without a hitch. I met the City of Portland inspector at 11pm and he issued me my sidewalk permit without further hassle. Whew.

I haven’t been blogging much because the large part of what I’ve been learning is about the intricacies of Portland zoning, permitting, and food safety. I’ll summarize to say that I’m finally done paying for permits and the total bill is just slightly under $1100. Those permits are calendar year and NOT prorated. So that huge sum is good for four months. It appears that prorating the first year is just too much math for our good government officials. I commiserated with other cart owners who had no pity on me, saying that they have eleven permits to my four so suck it up. First lesson, starting a cart is more expensive than you think.

Lessons Learned

Cutting and serving pie is sticky business. I need gloves. If I’m going to record tallies of game play with a pen and paper, I need to be able to quickly go from sticky hands to clean hands. The devil is in the details, you know.

I need to make more pie. I wanted to ramp up gently, so Friday I made four pies and a double cobbler, roughly 45 servings. I sold out in two hours. TWO HOURS! There were lines of a dozen folks at a couple of points throughout the afternoon.

People loves some piez. A lady with a dog walked around the corner and exclaimed “Oh my god, is that pie?!?” There were many groups of people that had a major rubberneck as they walked by. The mailman looked longingly and then came back later. Really, it was quite comical. Also, people are very likely to chat it up. I think pie has a nostalgic emotional connection. I don’t think I could’ve picked a better item as lure for my social experiments.

As I mentioned, the first game was Rock Paper Scissors. I was amazed to find that not everyone remembers exactly how to play. I picked it because I wanted to do something very light weight that everyone would relate to. I was right that everyone seems to have played it at one point, but I did have to give a little refresher to a handful.

I also learned that I‘m a force to be reckoned with at Rock Paper Scissors. Even though I was actively trying to lose, I won about 70% of the time. (I’ll track such stats more precisely in the future. See note about sticky fingers.)

Conversely, I’m a total softy. If someone had already told me what they wanted, inadvertently or not, I gave them what they wanted even if I won. In cases where there was a group of people in line, I encouraged them to engineer a trade. I’m looking forward to games with the wheel where my agency isn’t required or allowed.

When people won (returning them to the state at which you normally find yourself when ordering at a cart, namely, being able to pick what you get) they were extremely excited. It brought out a childlike happiness for many. Remember that mailman? It was bizarre and wonderful to ask him to Rock Paper Scissors with me.

It was pretty hilarious that just putting something at stake, essentially a wager, meant there was a palpable thrill of the kill. I was reminded of how much more fun blackjack and poker are when you’re betting real money. Without the wager, they’re pretty dull actually. The biggest adrenaline was when there was a line of people who’d been defeated by my skills. If three people in a row went down, the fourth customer to step up felt like they were coming up against a pitcher on a no-hit streak. When they won, it was pure joy.

Can’t wait for next week! The custom crafted wheel of fortune has been attached. Much fun and mischief will ensue.

Follow @pieLabPDX on twitter or facebook for announcements about what games we’re playing plus mmmpie flavors. We’re located at NW 12th and Davis and are open Fridays from noon till the pies sell out. Hopefully, I’ll be hiring some employees to be open more days of the week soon.

Discover more in the archive!