Valley Bounty: Florence Pie Bar

Published June 24, 2023 in the Daily Hampshire Gazette

Pie Bar sets a high bar using local produce

By Jacob Nelson

Few things are as heartwarming and delicious as a good slice of homemade pie.

“Pie holds a lot of memories for folks,” says Maura Glennon, owner of Florence Pie Bar, “many of them grounded in family, friends, and a feeling of life being a little simpler.”

That’s exactly the experience Florence Pie Bar aims for, capturing a slice of that nostalgia and the rich flavors of what’s in season on local farms. Housed in a renovated general store in Florence center, they serve breakfast, lunch and any other meal you can invent between 9am and 3pm Wednesday through Sunday. They also offer take-and-bake items and accept special orders for large events.

“We make sweet and savory pies, whole or by the slice, as well as cookies, breakfast breads and other small pastries,” Glennon says. “If you come in for a hot lunch, we usually have meat and veggie savory pies ready, and soup with our own sourdough bread. And on weekends we have egg and ham biscuit sandwiches with handmade biscuits.”

Glennon began baking at an early age with her mother, but it wasn’t her first career.

“I trained as a pianist and was a tenured professor at Keene State College for 17 years,” she says. “Eventually I became department chair. I loved it, but academia was changing. So, maybe sooner than my heart wanted, I stepped away to something different.”

That something different became the Pie Bar, a place heavily influenced by Glennon’s experience working in restaurants earlier in life. Rather than making food to order, they’d have things ready made to slice and serve. And while the menu would be short and simple, it would change with the seasons.

“The rotating menu keeps us creative as bakers and creates a little excitement for customers too,” she says. “They’ll call and ask, ‘when are you going to have those lemon-ricotta and asparagus rolls again?’ or whatever their favorite is.”

As asparagus faded, rhubarb rose.

“We started making plain rhubarb pie a few weeks ago with rhubarb from Intervale Farm in Westhampton – we’ve worked with them since the beginning,” says Glennon. “That’s easily my favorite pie. If folks have never tried it, they should.”

Then last week local strawberries became available from Warner Farm in Sunderland, another longtime Florence Pie Bar supplier, making way for strawberry-rhubarb pie. This marriage of sweet and tart is a fan favorite. It’s also a fleeting occurrence available only when both crops’ seasons overlap. Indeed, this week it’s already rotated off the menu, replaced by a zingy strawberry-ginger pie.

Picture credit: Leslie Lynn Lucio

“That’s always the challenge – you can’t know exactly when anything will be ready,” offers Glennon. “We can freeze some fruit, but we have minimal storage, and I don’t like how the quality changes. Blueberries do well, but strawberries and rhubarb get mushy. So we focus on using things when they’re fresh.”

Food businesses using local produce have their fates intertwined with local farms, whose harvest is in turn tied to the whims of nature. Florence Pie Bar accepts that uncertainty as a welcome tradeoff for the top-notch quality and flavor they get in return, along with the relationships and solidarity they build in their community by buying locally.

At the same time, as climate change fuels more extreme and variable weather, that uncertainty has increased, and the trickle-down impacts are visible on their menu. For example, a deep freeze in February damaged newly forming peach blossoms across New England, literally nipping this year’s harvest in the bud. Later frosts also hit some strawberry and blueberry growers. That means local peaches might not become pies this year, along with fewer strawberries and blueberries.

Yet overall, most of local farms’ bounty remains unscathed, and when you’re eating seasonally the next new crop is just days from ripeness (looking at you, July tomatoes). Plus, some local ingredients are always available, like maple syrup from North Hadley Sugar Shack and heavy cream from Mapleline Farm’s Jersey Cows in Hadley. The latter makes their cream pies amazingly smooth and rich.

Florence Pie Bar also bakes special orders, including for parties and events. As the weather warms, wedding season keeps them busy. As the fall and winter holidays near, production ramps up even further.

“We bake about 1,000 pies for Thanksgiving pre-orders,” Glennon says. “Prep work for that starts in September with making and freezing pie crusts, assembling spice kits – anything we can do ahead of time. It’s nuts but it’s fun, and a triumph to pull off.”

Another triumph to pull off was surviving the early days of the pandemic. Glennon and her team kept each other safe and the business going by adapting their operations and making the best use of the skills and resources they had.

“I learned how to write grant applications really well an academic, and that allowed us to access money and stay afloat,” she says. “Greenfield Savings Bank, who also gave me my start up loan, was great and helped us apply for the Paycheck Protection Program to pay our employees. We were also funded through the Northampton Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund. I’m so grateful to our town and our government for helping small businesses survive. Without that, we wouldn’t have.”

Some of this funding enabled positive changes that remain today, like their takeout window and more freezer space for new take and bake items. Now eight years after opening, Florence Pie Bar shows no signs of going anywhere.

Says Glennon, “it’s because of the people. From little kids to retirees, people were enthusiastic about this weird idea from day one. They came in with a sparkle in their eye, saying ‘you have pie?!'”

“Our staff, our customers, our farms, our community…there’s a sweet thread of stories that connects all of us, through pie.”

Jacob Nelson is communications coordinator for CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). To learn more about restaurants near you showcasing what’s in season from local farms, visit