Hampshire graduate Claire Hawley-Crews ‘11F and owner Maura Glennon recently opened The Florence Pie Bar.
Any hopeful customers stopping by the Florence Pie Bar in the afternoon were met with bad news in the restaurant’s first week: no more pie. The Florence Pie Bar, opened by Hampshire graduate Claire Hawley-Crews ‘11F and owner Maura Glennon, regularly sold out by early afternoon for weeks after opening. That first week, locals consumed over 2,400 single slices. In the process, the Pie Bar went through 110 pounds of butter, enough to fill a kiddie pool.
Claire is joining the ranks of Hampshire graduates who have opened successful restaurants in the area, including Nick Seman, owner of the Black Sheep Deli, and Howard Wein, owner of The Alvah Stone in the Montague Book Mill.
Claire was attending Hampshire when Justin Kimball of Amherst College hosted her photography class for a critique at his house. When his wife, Maura Glennon, brought out a platter of pastries, Claire said, “Oh! Galettes!” No one else knew what galettes were, but Maura could tell she’d found culinary kin. The two eventually found they had a shared dream of opening a pie shop.
The summer before she met Maura, Claire made a lot of galettes at the famed Chez Panisse, under Alice Waters, the matriarch of the local-foods movement. The restaurant, which features the locally sourced, seasonal cuisine that defines California’s culinary aesthetic, reinforced Claire’s commitment to sustainable food.
At Hampshire, Claire spent a year as a local foods intern, working with the College’s dining hall and a network of local farmers. Students like Claire drive Hampshire’s commitment to use local food by embarking on the 100 Percent Local Food Challenge in partnership with the Henry P. Kendall Foundation.
She also headed the student group Local Foods Initiative. “LFI organizes events and dinners that are focused on local food and alternative, small scale agriculture in the valley and beyond.” Claire said.
One year, Claire was responsible for ordering all the fare for Hampshire’s annual Fall Feast. Now, she is responsible for locally sourcing ingredients for the Florence Pie Bar.
Despite locally sourcing ingredients, they also keep prices low, a rare combination. “We are keeping prices at a point where anyone can come in and buy something,” Claire said. “We’ve also worked to make the menu accessible.”
The style of the pie shop is designed to be inviting to anyone who comes in – it is “very homey, very comforting,” Claire said. The style of the shop is distinctly old-fashioned, which adds to its nostalgic appeal. Will Ryan, Claire’s Div III advisor, said, “I'm not sure I know anyone who is so joyful and creative about keeping the past in play today."
Claire said her Division III project in printmaking and its history gave her “the ability to focus on many small projects as components of a larger, long-term project.” She juggled interests in art, sociology, and food ethics at Hampshire, crediting the College for showing that “all of these interests were connected.” She also hand-printed most of the restaurant’s paper materials—like menus and labels—at Big Wheel Press, where she produced art for her Div III.
If you want a slice, the Florence Pie Bar is located on Route 9 in Florence, on the corner of Chestnut and Main Streets. They are open Tues-Sat 7-4, and closed Sundays and Mondays.