In 1974, Cathy and Larry Mazurek – who lived in Des Plaines, Ill. – visited Door County for the first time on their honeymoon. They instantly fell in love with the popular Wisconsin getaway spot and after vacationing there for a few decades decided they would like to live there.
"We finally got old enough to realize we could do something else beside sit in an office," says Cathy Mazurek.
Cathy worked for many years as an insurance agent and Larry was a computer operator, but when they reached their mid-50s, they started to consider other livelihoods.
"I really wanted the Door County lifestyle," she says. "I’m a city girl from Chicago, but my husband is from the country and he likes to fish and hunt so it didn’t take much to twist his arm."
In 2003, Cathy and Larry heard the owner of Sweetie Pies, a pie shop just south of Fish Creek, was looking for new partners.
At the time, the Mazureks considered buying and operating a Door County bar. However, when they heard about the opportunity at Sweetie Pies, the couple spent two weeks apprenticing at the pie shop and decided it was the right fit for them.
"We decided we’d rather make pies than sell beers," says Mazurek.
Cathy, who is now 65 and also the kitchen manager at Sweetie Pies, started baking at the age of 9 with her mother and grandmothers. Aside from pies, she enjoys baking cheesecakes, cookies and more.
"You name it, I’ll bake it," she says.
Susan Croissant (believe it or not) opened Sweetie Pies in 1995. Croissant later got married and decided to sell the business to David Lea and his daughter, Corinne. Eventually, Corinne decided to move on, too, and so David put Corinne’s half of the business up for sale.
Today, the Mazureks own Sweetie Pies with Lea and his wife, Renny.
"Larry and I were very lucky. We stepped into a business that was already very successful. Susan and the Leas really got this business where it is today and deserve all of the credit," says Mazurek. "Our motto is ‘if it ain’t broke, we don’t need to fix it.’"
Years ago, Croissant, who was originally from Batavia, Ill., brought pies home with her for the holidays for family and friends. Eventually, so many more people requested her pies that she started taking orders and making a special trip to deliver the pies before Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Today, Sweetie Pies continues this tradition and takes an annual "road trip" to deliver pies at six locations – three in Illinois and three in Wisconsin.
Pie orders must be made by Monday, Nov. 10 and can be picked up on Saturday, Nov. 15 in Kenosha at the intersection of highways 94 and 50, the Holt Avenue Park and Ride in Milwaukee or at River Point Plaza in Bayside.
Sweetie Pies accepts orders here.
Sweetie Pies no longer does a Christmas pie run because the Thanksgiving orders have been so time-consuming. Last year, 675 pies were delivered during the one-day road trip. The most popular holiday flavors are pumpkin, Door County apple and cherry and the cost ranges from $16 to $24 plus a small delivery charge.
"Many of our customers know us from being on vacation in Door County and are happy we come down once a year," says Mazurek.
Sweetie Pies offers more than 30 different pies including sugar-free, gluten-free and special order meringue pies. Sweetie Pies are available whole or by the slice.
The business is open every day from Memorial Day until the end of October and only open on the weekends from November through mid-February. It is closed from mid-February until mid-April.
A crew of 8-10 bakers makes the pies twice a week. The seasonal workers range in age from 20s to their 70s, including a 76-year-old man, women in their 20s and two married couples. Many of the workers have returned for years, a rarity in the world of temporary work.
"Some of these people have been with us five years or more. That’s a novelty up here with seasonal workers," she says. "I think it’s because we all get along so well and have such a good time. We sing, we dance. That’s also why I think our pies taste so good – because of all the fun that goes into making them."
During the high season, the bakers make 500 pies a week which is 200-250 pies per five-hour shift. All of the pies are made by hand and from scratch. Many of the recipes are from Croissant’s grandmother.
"Our dough for our crust is simple and delicious. It’s made from salted butter, flour and water. No trans fat," says Mazurek. "We really enjoy the whole process of pie making."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.