MURPHYSBORO — To hear Rick Stapel tell the story, one of the iconic tastes of Southern Illinois began with a sort of a wager. Actually, it was more of a fight with his wife, Miranda. That 2013 disagreement was the genesis of Rule of Pie, a Murphysboro bakery the couple owns.
“I was eating a pie that she made and it was really, really good,” Stapel said. “She wouldn’t believe me, and so it sort of turned into a thing.”
Stapel said friends were launching the weekly farmers market in Carterville and looking for vendors. To prove his point, Rick convinced Miranda to try to sell a few of her creations.
“What she did was take five pies out there and she sold them right away,” he said. “The next week, she made a few more, then a few more and by the end of the summer, she was making and selling 40 pies a week.”
He says the pie buyers — especially the repeat customers — not only proved his point, but also planted a seed, a seed that grew during a trip to Denver.
“We happened upon a place called Thursday’s Pies," Stapel said, "that was open only one day a week."
The couple secured a location on Walnut street in Murphysboro and, like the Colorado establishment, settled on Thursday as a day to sell pies.
“She wasn’t sure that people would come for pies one day a week, not to mention five," Stapel said. "We decided to take a chance and it was good.”
It was more than good and demand outpaced supply. Soon, the couple expanded hours.
“First it was just Thursday, then it was Thursday and Friday,” he explains. “Then we added Wednesday, now it’s five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday.”
Rick says he was not surprised by Rule of Pie’s success.
“I knew it would work, just because Miranda was the one doing it. She’s a tireless worker and an absolute perfectionist, especially when it comes to baking,” he said.
The recipes are time-tested family ones from Miranda’s mother and grandmother, he adds.
“She is meticulous in the process. She is so involved in the product and every pie is a reflection of her,” he said.
Rule of Pie has an ever-changing menu, based upon seasons and what locally-sourced ingredients are available. Stapel says each one is handmade fresh. He says sometimes the process is responsible for lost sales.
“It’s not like we’re going to pull pies out of the freezer and microwave them. They’re all fresh, but when they’re gone, they’re gone,” he said, adding there are some challenges in this business model.
“It’s been hard to scale the business,” he said. “In essence, we have to educate the public about how difficult and labor-intensive it is to produce food from scratch.”
Miranda and her staff of four prepared 450 pies Thanksgiving week and have more than 20 different types of pie available for Christmas orders. Stapel says the growth in the business has been because of word of (happy) mouths.
“We’ve been here for five years and it’s a testament to Miranda’s work,” he said. “I mean, we have zero in our advertising budget. It’s just if you have something good, people will tell other’s about it.