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Bang Bang Pie Eyes Pilsen for Its Next Location

By Janet Rausa Fuller | March 7, 2014 6:38am
 Bang Bang Pie Shop plans to open a second location in Pilsen as part of a broad expansion that includes mail-order service and cooking classes.
Bang Bang Pie Shop expansion
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LOGAN SQUARE — Bang Bang Pie Shop, which turned 2 this month, is growing quickly, as toddlers do. And it's ready for a sibling.

Dave Miller, who owns the popular shop at 2051 N. California Ave. with his baker wife Megan and friend Michael Ciapciak, said they are in negotiations for a Pilsen storefront that they plan to turn into a "pie cafeteria."

It will be a "very blue-collar, very affordable, family-style place," Miller said, with the pies that have gained a loyal following and savory food that could be served cafeteria-style.

Pilsen is "a neighborhood we understand" with a "cool mesh of culture" similar to Logan Square and Brooklyn, he said.

It's the next logical move in what has been a quiet, calculated expansion of the Bang Bang business and brand, inspired in large part by Zingerman's, the famous Ann Arbor, Mich., deli that spawned a collection of concepts, including a bakehouse, mail-order catalog and creamery.

Until recently, Bang Bang had been cranking out pies for consistent crowds from just a pair of ovens.

"Our biggest issue has been being able to keep up," Miller said. "We've had all these visions of what we've wanted to do, but with such a small kitchen, we were limited."

So last fall, they bought a bakery in a neighborhood Miller won't disclose. Since the Thanksgiving pie rush, it has served as their second kitchen and research and development center.

Here, they tinker with and refine recipes for new pies, biscuit sandwiches and other menu specials. It's where they figured out how best to bake and freeze their buttery biscuits so that when reheated, they taste exactly as they should.

In February, they started local delivery as well as mail-order service of some of their signature goods, including those biscuits, which they tested by shipping them to relatives in Florida, California and St. Louis.

The increased baking capacity also has let Bang Bang take on wholesale clients. The Winchester, 1001 N. Winchester St., serves its biscuits. Antique Taco in Wicker Park and Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill in West Town and Bridgeport serve its key lime pie. Joe Fish, opening next week in River North, has both pie and biscuits on the menu.

Bang Bang now has 18 employees. Megan Miller is training her chefs to teach pie-baking and cooking classes, yet another element of the growing business. The response to the one class she taught last year on a whim was so overwhelming, "we've had calls ever since," Dave Miller said.

The shop's new, shorter hours on the weekends were set specifically to allow for these cooking classes, which will be scheduled in the coming weeks.

His hope, he said, is to become more than just a pie shop and offer a place where people from all walks of life hang out.

"We're just trying to create a sustainable business,"Miller said.