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A-Town Humble Pies started as a way to get to know people, but it's become so much more 

click to enlarge BERRY SEASON Pies are always in season for Ian and Alicia Denchasy, who serve up slices of berry and rhubarb pie at local farmers' markets when the local produce is at its peak.

Photos Courtesy Of Ian Denchasy

BERRY SEASON Pies are always in season for Ian and Alicia Denchasy, who serve up slices of berry and rhubarb pie at local farmers' markets when the local produce is at its peak.

Straus Family Creamery butter, Bob's Red Mill flour, and farmers' market produce. These are the things that A-Town Humble Pies are made of.

With Straus dairy farms on California's coast and a Bob's Red Mill grain mill close by, these pies are about as local as you can get, and that's exactly how Ian and Alicia Denchasy want it.

"Whatever I buy today will probably be in the pie tomorrow," Ian said. "We kind of believe that when we bake with local ingredients, we are putting out the energy of the area."

He said that it may sound kind of hippy-dippy, but it's true.

Every ounce of produce that they purchase comes from the farmers who man the booths around them at the North SLO County farmers' markets. Rocky Canyon Farms, Pepper Hill Farm, Fair Hills Apple Farm, Velasquez Farms, Cortez Farms, the list goes on forever. Even their savory pies feature local ingredients—for instance, the chicken pot pie's main ingredient comes from BeeWench Farm.

In the summer, pies were packed with seasonal stone fruit like peaches. After the peaches disappeared, apples became the star. As January rolls around, the couple will switch to berries. Grapes even made an appearance this year. And let's not forget that pumpkins came into season just in time for Thanksgiving.

But A-Town Humble Pies didn't start out with such a broad repertoire of pie ingredient knowledge. Alicia said it's something they've gained as part of the farmers' market community.

Ian and Alicia swear they started A-Town Humble Pies as a way to meet people when they moved to Atascadero from Venice Beach for retirement. They had a space saved at the Atascadero Farmers' Market before they even moved.

A-Town Humble Pies made its first appearance in June 2019. Now they're in five farmers' markets, taking whole pie orders from customers, baking 60 to 80 pies a week, lugging their ingredients between kitchens, and looking for a more permanent space or storefront.

"It's just sort of blown up in our faces and become a full-fledged business. So much for retirement I guess," Ian said with a laugh.

click to enlarge LABOR OF LOVE Alicia, Kealii, and Ian Denchasy (left to right) dish out sweet and savory seasonal pies they make by hand for A-Town Humble Pies. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF IAN DENCHASY
  • Photos Courtesy Of Ian Denchasy
  • LABOR OF LOVE Alicia, Kealii, and Ian Denchasy (left to right) dish out sweet and savory seasonal pies they make by hand for A-Town Humble Pies.

"It's just been a really nice way to meet the community," Alicia added. "It's just become such a really main staple of our lives, to meet with these really great people, and that's really why we do it."

Currently living in an apartment on the south side of town, the Denchasys are building a tiny home in the hills off Del Rio Road and planning to plant an apple orchard, berries, and other dry-farmable produce. And they're learning all about the farming side of things from their farmers' market friends.

"It's just sort of become this little world that we've been a part of," Ian said. "It's just insane."

Known as the "guy with the pies" in the Venice Beach neighborhood they left behind, Ian has been baking pies for about three decades. It all started with Alicia's Aunt Dorothy, who was visiting with family from Canada. Everyone wanted to walk down to the famous strip on Venice Beach.

"She didn't want to walk a mile and a half down to the beach," Ian said, adding that he didn't either. "We stayed behind and cooked for hours while they did the whole get rousted by vendors and street performers and all that."

click to enlarge FARMERS' FARE A-Town Humble Pies serves up slices of strawberry and rhubarb pie just like grandma used to make, filled with produce from local farmers. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF IAN DENCHASY
  • Photos Courtesy Of Ian Denchasy
  • FARMERS' FARE A-Town Humble Pies serves up slices of strawberry and rhubarb pie just like grandma used to make, filled with produce from local farmers.

By the time the family got back, Ian and Aunt Dorothy had about five or six pies baked, fresh out of the oven. She taught him how to make the crust: Cutting butter into the flour by hand, spooning water into the mixture little by little until it was the right consistency. And she told him not to skimp on certain ingredients.

Alicia said Aunt Dorothy was the type of woman who grew wheat so she could make her own flour—she was into fresh, healthy, homegrown ingredients before it was trendy.

Ian was already into cooking, he said, so he just kind of picked up pie making after that day and ran with it. And now, what started as a retirement pursuit has become something so much bigger.

They sell pie by the slice at the Los Osos, Atascadero, Templeton, Morro Bay, and Paso Robles farmers' markets and take whole pie orders over the phone, the internet, or the farmers' market table. The Denchasys' son Kealii recently moved up from Los Angeles to help them out, and because they're currently working out of three different kitchens, Ian and Alicia are keeping an eye out for a small storefront and commercial kitchen.

"We literally make every pie by hand, and I mean, literally, from cutting the fruit to laboring the dough. It's very labor intensive," Ian said. "You can only make so many pies that way."

click to enlarge SAVORY FLAVOR A-Town Humble Pies concentrates on using ingredients from local farmers, such as chilis from Velasquez Farms in this chili pot pie. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF IAN DENCHASY
  • Photos Courtesy Of Ian Denchasy
  • SAVORY FLAVOR A-Town Humble Pies concentrates on using ingredients from local farmers, such as chilis from Velasquez Farms in this chili pot pie.

But at least it's a labor of love. And that's what the couple tries to project from their farmers' market stand: community, a welcoming atmosphere, and eyes that smile behind that COVID-19 mask. Ian even pulls out his ukulele to strum the gentle background sounds of Hawaii (Ian is part Hawaiian) for people to hear as they walk through the market.

A-Town Humble Pies has a crew of pie-buying regulars and the Denchasys try to continue gleaning information from the people around them.

When the couple comes across a new ingredient from one of the local farmers, they experiment with it: Take that unknown-to-them produce to the pie kitchen, try it with this or that, bring the new concoction to the farmers' market, have people try it, and use the feedback to try to perfect a new pie.

click to enlarge GREETINGS What started as a way to meet people by selling homemade pies at local farmers' markets has turned into a full-fledged business for Ian and Alicia Denchasy. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF IAN DENCHASY
  • Photos Courtesy Of Ian Denchasy
  • GREETINGS What started as a way to meet people by selling homemade pies at local farmers' markets has turned into a full-fledged business for Ian and Alicia Denchasy.

"We've learned so much. We're not farmers by trade. We don't know half the stuff that we see at farmers' markets. They're teaching us," Alicia said. "It's really great because then we can continue offering and selling these different things."

In her experience, she said, people might go to the farmers' market to pick up produce such as lemons. They are comfortable with one type of lemon, say Meyer lemons, but there are 30 different lemons out there to try. Each with a unique flavor profile. Each works differently as an ingredient.

"Unless people know how they can cook with it, they're not going to try it," Alicia said.

In mid-November, A-Town Humble Pies stopped taking whole pie orders for Thanksgiving. But the pie makers will be opening up orders for the Christmas season in a couple of weeks.

"We'll look at what's going to be available and that's what we'll offer," Ian said. "But we really won't know what the fruit choices will be until we talk to the farmers."

One thing Ian knows for sure: His sticky toffee pudding pie will definitely be available.

"Honestly, it's probably mine and my son's favorite pie," he said. "Drizzle toffee sauce over it and heat it up, ... it's just heaven." Δ

Editor Camillia Lanham is looking forward to heaven. Send fresh baked good news to clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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