Susan Fergason decided to try something bold, something different.
Something easy as pie.
Combining her love for food and science, the creative and energetic Covington woman left the classroom for the kitchen. She recently opened Pie Lab, a homespun bakery off Southeast Kent-Kangley Road, next to Trader Joe’s, inside the Lake Meridian Marketplace.
Early reviews have been good.
“Awesome,” said Fergason, pausing between orders last week. “We never anticipated having this kind of following. We already have regular customers. One lady says she’s coming every week for a slice of pie.”
The bakery’s homemade pie comes in many shapes, sizes and tastes. There’s signature strawberry, cherry and apple. There’s bacon apple, pear and bourbon peach. Soon look for fireball apple, pumpkin spice and other seasonal favorites.
The secret to Fergason’s success?
The foundation, the rustic pie crust.
Fergason’s recipe is actually mom’s, a family formula that’s been handed down for more than 50 years. It’s simple, and it comes from the heart.
“It’s not unique,” Fergason said. “It’s delicious. It has won every dessert contest.”
Fergason’s fancy for food comes from her inspirational parents.
James Fergason, a physicist and inventor, taught his daughter the value of science, observation and the appreciation of a well-prepared meal. Dora Fergason taught her daughter the craft – to cook and bake with passion, using fresh, from scratch ingredients.
Fergason, who grew up in California, initially chose science over culinary arts.
She moved to Washington state and majored in molecular biology at the University of Puget Sound, becoming a middle and high school science teacher in the Kent School District for eight years.
Fergason used her creativity and science background as a part-time ceramic artist and teacher. A single mom, she decided she needed a change.
“I was at a point where, ‘Should I got back to teaching or what about doing something else?’” Fergason said.
Baking beckoned. Pie came to mind.
She brought an idea to Green River College’s Small Business Development Center, which helped Fergason research, scope and eventually turn her startup plan into entrepreneurial reality.
The business model is simple and evolving. The bakery’s menu, hours of operation and other services will subtly change to best meet its customers.
Beyond dessert pie, quiche is on the menu. Other baked items may follow.
“This is a brand new concept. We are still trying to find what our limits are, what is our capacity,” said Parteek Singh, an advisor for the college’s Small Business Development Center. “We haven’t even had a grand opening yet. This is something called a soft opening where you train the staff and try to figure out what your capacity is.
“(But business) has taken off like a rocket.”
True to her teaching roots, Fergason and her staff test, engineer and perfect recipes. They welcome customer participation to help the kitchen crew customize orders.
Fergason soon hopes to entertain birthday parties, ladies nights and classes at Pie Lab.
For now, it’s all about make things easy as pie.
“Everything – crust and fillings – are made here in front of everybody,” Fergason said. “Everything is made in-house.”
Just the way she likes it.
Pie Lab, at 12966 SE Kent Kangley Road, Kent, is open 8 a.m. daily. To learn more, visit thepielabbakery.com. The grand opening celebration is Sept. 4.