Campus News

"Oo La La": Gordon Weinberger í87 Offers Pie Ė and Inspiration Ė to Food Service Personnel

Story posted January 09, 2001

The 44-foot red, white and blue bus, which sports a huge cartoon face and the message "Eat Moí Pie" painted on its side, pulled up in front of Moulton Union the morning of Thursday, January 4. Almost screaming with bright colors and wild art, it could hardly be ignored.

When the bus came to a halt and the door opened, out stepped the Pieguy. All 6í 9" of him (over 7 feet if you add the rainbow stovepipe hat and Z-Coil sneakers). More correctly, out hobbled the Pie Man. For he was on crutches: down with a broken hip, the result of a skiing accident. But would this stop the Pieguy? Heck, no. On schedule, the Pieguy arrived in his multicolored bus, wearing his multicolored outfit, and using the longest multicolored crutches on the face of the earth. His message was clear. Lifeís an adventure, have a good time, and "Oo La La
Eat Moí Pie!"

This is Gordon Weinberger í87, also known as the Pieguy, the owner of Gordonís Top of The Tree Baking Co., baker of Gordonís Top of The Tree Apple Pies. Entrepreneur. Funster. Really snappy dresser (shorts, all year round, in New England!). Gordon visited the Bowdoin campus recently to speak to the folks in Dining Service, and he brought along a lot more than pie, Mardi Gras beads, and tee shirts. He brought a wonderful message about positive energy, doing what you love, and the importance of giving and receiving support.

Support is one of lifeís most important commodities, Gordon says right off the bat. Itís one of the main reasons we can be happy and successful. Gordonís audience knows what heís talking about: Food Service is a major support unit on campus, the Pieguy pointed out, remembering well from his own days as a Bowdoin student.

One of Gordonís earliest ambitions growing up in Norwalk, Connecticut, was to have his own business. His business and marketing acumen revealed itself early, as he ran lemonade and candy stands and a bicycle repair shop. He came to Bowdoin College, double majoring with full honors in Government and Sociology, with a minor in American History. Sophomore year he founded Polar Bear Window Washing in Connecticut, which expanded to Boston and Cape Cod.

Then it was off to Wesleyan University in Jerusalem, where he earned an Independent Study Degree. He joined The Education Resources Institute, overseeing public relations and communications, then the famous Boston-based advertising/public relations agency Cosmopulos Crowley Daly, Inc.

Meanwhile, he was baking pies, following his grandmotherís recipe. Upon winning two blue ribbons at the Londonderry Old Home Day Apple Pie Contest, he began to think, "Why not make a living at this?" He opened the Top of The Tree Baking Company pie factory on December 1, 1994.

Gordon wanted to create something different, something like Tomís of Maine Toothpaste, Ben & Jerryís Ice Cream, or Samuel Adams Beer. So when he set out to make pies, they wouldnít be just any old pies. They would be the highest quality pies. Pies that would make people talk (after they had swallowed, of course.) At the same time, he set out never to lose sight of his responsibilities to his pie-loving customers and to his community.

For the first three years Gordon and his team made pies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They put the pies in brown boxes, and shipped them off to supermarkets. The pies were prize winners
but, unfortunately, they were also losing money. The equipment in the factory just wasnít up to making 1000 pies an hour. Gordon was advised to shut down the operation.

But as he learned at Bowdoin, "Itís about not giving up."

All Gordon wanted to do was make pie. So he and a friend (who happened to be a bankruptcy lawyer) went to work on arranging to pay his creditors over time. Most of these creditors supported Gordon, and allowed him the extra time to pay off his loans and bills. The next step was to figure out how to make money. An idea suddenly occurred to the Pieguy. He told his partner, "Well, Iíve got this old school bus
."

The team hatched an aggressive, attention-grabbing marketing plan: to travel around to every grocery store in this Piebus, shake a lot of hands, get a lot of peopleís attention, and as a result, sell a busload of pies. The team started logging 1,500 miles per week, visiting 10 stores a day.

"We found a magic connection to people," Gordon says. "'Hi, Gordon of Gordon Pies. Have you tried my pie?í" he began, pumping hands with the folks in the grocery stores. People started to notice. Then the routine became a little more flamboyant. He started walking into stores in his rainbow attire and grabbed peopleís attention with a hearty "Oo La La, have you tried my pies?" (backed by a lot of lung power). He not only won over consumers, he won over several investors. Business started to boom.

By 1998 Gordonís Pies were in all the grocery stores, and he sold a million dollars worth of pies. He found himself on QVC and CNN.

He has learned some great lessons along the way: the importance of the support of family, friends, and the companies you work with; the importance of having fun in whatever you do; the importance of getting attention for what you have to offer. And perhaps most importantly, steer clear of negativity.

"The power of positive energy is remarkable," he maintains. "Itís in human nature to be negative, to look at everything around you cautiously. But there is a positive attitude deep inside you that is powerful. Wake up every day and say, ĎToday Iím going to be positive.í" It can be hard, he concedes, with all of lifeís pressures weighing down on you: running businesses, juggling family matters, breaking hips. But the benefits are enormous. Gordon himself is a prime example of what and how much you can achieve through positive energy. Referring to his broken hip, he says, "I told myself this is going to be another adventure." He mustered all his positivity, and once again, "It worked!
Iíve got cool crutches and all the energy in the world!"

Click here to visit Gordonís Pies online.

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