Four years ago, Jaynelle St. Jean was affectionately known as “The Pie Lady,” giving away slices of homemade pie through her mother’s window to San Francisco residents; today, her business, PieTisserie, has gone from a regular Friday pop-up at Swan’s Market in Downtown Oakland to a soon-to-be permanent home a few steps away from Lake Merritt.

St. Jean didn’t always know she would start a successful pie business. As a journalism major and valedictorian of her class at San Diego State University, she immediately landed a job with a law firm and moved out to New York City, where she started to think about her core values in contrast to traversing the path to a six figure income. After returning home to San Francisco and seeing how much people enjoyed the pies she gave away, she realized that pies are more than just tasty desserts.

“I feel like pies are symbol of a common understanding of togetherness, abundance and peace of mind,” St. Jean said. “I kind of thought it would be cathartic to do this thing which is an expression of my ideal state: not stressed, not worried, not rushed, having plenty and sharing.

A self-proclaimed experimental eater, St. Jean’s pie flavors—available in $25 full sizes or $5 mini sizes—reflect her adventurous tastes. Some of her most popular pies include Chocolate Cream Pretzel, Banana Chai Cream and Lemon Blueberry. Her proudest creation, and one of PieTisserie’s best-sellers, is the Blackbottom Walnut pie, composed of walnuts and a chocolate crust built into the bottom of the pie crust.

Though the space will be relatively empty until PieTisserie is slated to open in August or September, St. Jean already has an idea for the layout of her shop. An employee will greet the customer upon entry and will showcase the kinds of pies available for the day. Then, the customer will have the opportunity to watch their order being prepped and boxed up. The shop will also feature towers of floor-to-ceiling pies, a small table used for bridal tastings, and a seating area outside.

In addition to walk-in service and ordering pies for pick up, St. Jean is also considering a pie picnic special, where customers can purchase a picnic basket filled with an assortment of pies depending on how many people will be eating. The baskets are intended to be enjoyed right next to Lake Merritt and will include cold milk, a small container of ice cream and serving utensils.

When she isn’t baking pies or concocting unique recipes, St. Jean spends her free time cooking, reading, running at Joaquin Miller Park and rowing for the Lake Merritt Rowing Club.

“It’s kind of interesting how much my life is starting to look like what I want it to look like,” St. Jean said. “I row on the lake, my shop is right by my house, it’s all very quaint and cozy.”

St. Jean said that, in the end, it came down to balancing what aligned with her core values and needing to make an income. With PieTisserie’s continued success, she is discovering the quality of life she has always wanted.

“Your job is to figure out what makes you happy and try to be in that space and that zone as much as you possibly can, by any means necessary,” St. Jean said.

444 Oak Street in Oakland
(510) 859-7437

About The Author

Natalie Meier is currently writing about issues in public health, tech and small business innovation as a freelance contributor for Oakland Local. Meier is a senior at Mills College studying English and Journalism and is also cross-registered at UC Berkeley. She currently interns for ABC7 News in San Francisco and has written for The Daily Californian, Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), StuVoice, and KALW.

3 Responses

  1. bleh

    oh cool, overpriced underwhelming pie for everyone! me and my girlfriend still talk about the time we bought a 25 dollar sweet potato pie (crazy right?) from pietisserie for thanksgiving 2 years ago. it was pretty mediocre, and the owner had a weird attitude in general. we tell everyone to avoid the place because of that experience.


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