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December 29, 2020

Faces of Fauquier: Her pie business brings “great joy”

Photo/Don Del Rosso
During the farmers market season, Sue Olinger sells 50 to 100 pies per week.
I love walking into a store and knowing half a dozen people. Or, if I go into Old Town Warrenton and to Main Street, I know people. I love that small community feel.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The Virginia Department of Transportation employee had a hunch 17 years ago about the Warrenton Farmers Market.

“I was just a customer there since my early 20s,” remembered Sue Olinger of New Baltimore. “And I just kind of always would go there and say, ‘I think I can absolutely do something here’.”

Because family and friends praised her pies, Mrs. Olinger, 60, thought there might an opportunity to start a home-based bakery and sell them to a bigger audience.

Her husband and future helper, Dan, 61, liked the idea.

So in September 2003, Mrs. Olinger set up a stand at the Saturday market’s Fifth Street location.

The VDOT human resources analyst didn’t know exactly what to do or expect.

“We couldn’t figure out how many pies to make,” Mrs. Olinger explained. “Didn’t have any idea. It took me all week to make 30 pies. We went to the market, and they were sold out in an hour and a half.”

Could the first response be a “fluke?” the couple wondered.

“We did the same thing the next week, and it happened again,” Mrs. Olinger said. “And it just kind of snowballed from there.”

In its second year, Sue’s Pies & More added a range of other baked goods to the repertoire.

Mrs. Olinger operated the business on a part-time basis until 2010, when VDOT “restructured” and eliminated all local-level human resources analyst jobs. As a result, she got laid off.

But unemployment opened a different door for her.

“I thought if I’m going to try this as a full-time business, now is the time,” Mrs. Olinger recalled.

From about mid-April to late November, Mrs. Olinger offers six or seven different kinds of pie, cookies, banana and pumpkin bread, cinnamon rolls, yeast rolls and ham biscuits at the Saturday Warrenton Farmers Market and the Wednesday Wakefield Park Farmers Market in Fairfax.

“When it’s farmers market season, my house is a bakery,” she said with a laugh.

During the farmers market season, she sells 50 to 100 pies per week, Mrs. Olinger said.

For Thanksgiving alone, she, her husband and two assistants prepared about 500 pies. That included 200 apple pies — the No. 1 holiday choice.

Overall, apple caramel crunch, banana black bottom and lemon meringue rank as her three most popular pies.

But “pies are seasonal,” noted Mrs. Olinger, who uses her own recipes. “When peaches come in, that’s the big one. When it’s summertime, key lime is big.”

Of the 15 or so kinds of pies she makes, the baker likes lemon chess best. Her pies cost $16 to $18 each.

Mrs. Olinger takes a break from the kitchen between Thanksgiving and the spring, when the farmers markets resume.

“Christmas is family time,” she said of the winter sabbatical. “And typically Jan. 1 everybody goes on a diet. By the time market opens up, people are ready for pie again.”

• Age
60

• Home
Near New Baltimore

• Work
Owner/baker, Sue’s Pies & More, 2003 to present; human resources analyst, Virginia Department of Transportation, Warrenton, 1993 to 2010; human resources manager, Bionetics Corp., Vint Hill, 1977-93.

• Why do you do the job?
I was raised in the restaurant business. My (maternal) grandparents owned a restaurant in Washington, D.C., for 40 years on Connecticut Avenue — the Kennedy-Warren Dining Room — right next to the zoo.

The last 15 years of it, which was in my young life, my parents ran it. I spent a lot of time around food, and it was something that just came very naturally to me.

Pies bring great joy to people. And that, in turn, brings great joy to me. I absolutely love seeing community members every week and being able to chit-chat and talk with them.

• Family
Husband Dan, 61; two grown daughters and three grandchildren

• Education
Fauquier High School, 1979.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
All my life.

• Why do you live here?
My (maternal) grandfather brought our family out here over 100 years ago, and I love it. I would never think of living anywhere else. I go on vacation, but this is home.

I love walking into a store and knowing half a dozen people. Or, if I go into Old Town Warrenton and to Main Street, I know people. I love that small community feel.

• How do you describe this county?
Very diverse and making changes in the right direction — evolving in to the 21st Century, but not exploding like we see in the Gainesville area.

The county seems to be trying to pick and choose a good variety of stores for us.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
I would like to see something for young people to do — to be able to go out and do for entertainment. And we really don’t have anything. I know they’ve tried movie theaters.

• What do you do for fun?
I love the beach. So that’s our annual family vacation. Being a grandma.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
Lake Brittle.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years?
I think we’re going to see exponential growth. With the sale of the Rogers farm (at New Baltimore), I know there’s a lot more houses going up here.

I hope it retains its charm and sense of rural community. I think it will. I think Main Street (Warrenton) will continue to be a live, striving entity that brings a little of the old into the new.

• Favorite TV show?
“M*A*S*H”

• Favorite movie?
“White Christmas”

• Favorite book?
“The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch.

• Favorite vacation spot?
North Myrtle Beach, S.C.

• Favorite food?
Seafood.

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom?
From my mother. Just be yourself. You can’t go wrong, if you’re just yourself. You are who you are. I’ve tried to send that on to my children.

• Who’s your hero and why?
My (maternal) grandmother. She was a woman before her time. She went to Syracuse University and got a degree in nutrition. This was probably back in the teens or early 1920s.

And, she was the driving force of the family restaurant. She took people who lived in Washington, D.C., who did not know how to cook, who did not know how to be a waiter, who did not know how to do anything. She taught them each a trade. She changed people’s lives because she took the time.

• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery?
Take care of my entire family and make major donations to charities

Have a suggestion?
Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? Email Don Del Rosso at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Lou Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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jey957 · December 31, 2020 at 7:48 am
Nice news info Thanks
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pielady · December 29, 2020 at 3:41 pm
I feel like Sue's PIE SISTER! Reading her story made me so very happy; our passion for making people happy by making pie is identical. I, too, followed in my maternal grandmother's footsteps, being raised in her cafe in rural Illinois where she was sought after for her cream pies. I left the corporate world in 1995 to start a pie business, with the help of my mother, in a dilapidated trading post from the 1940's in Pie Town, New Mexico. The only reason we did it was because people NEED pie! And this is the kind of story we NEED to hear now - more than ever. When it is safe to travel, I will make a pilgrimage to Virginia so that Sue and I can have our photos taken together w/our vehicle plates...mine is PIELADY, too! I bet we can share some pie secrets!! Anyone who's favorite pie is lemon chess is my kind of new best friend.
Chris Butler · December 29, 2020 at 9:08 am
Sue, Danny and her family are wonderful folks and her baked goods are the best! I miss seeing them at the Market each week.
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