While there is undoubtedly strength in numbers, sometimes just the power of two is enough to work magical things. From front/back of house pairings and designer duos to sibling set-ups and mom & pop alliances, this new Scout column looks to gain insight into what makes some of Vancouver’s more interesting partnerships tick.
by Ken Tsui | Before Stephanie and Andrea French became business partners and opened The Pie Shoppe, they were sisters. After launching in the winter of 2012, the pair gained a reputation for slinging some of the best pies in town and quickly outgrew their matchbox-sized shop in Chinatown. Stephanie and Andrea have since moved to a much larger space in Hastings-Sunrise, where they’ve have cultivated and housed the ideas of local artists, makers and food producers in a space soundly built on pie. We recently caught up with the feisty siblings to talk about how it all started, what makes them tick, and more:
Take us back to the beginning. How did it all start?
Andrea: Our parents probably wanted one child and thought ‘Stephanie needs a friend’, which is why I’m here.
Stephanie: We grew up together, but we’ve also broken apart to do our own things before coming back to do this [The Pie Shoppe].
How did that conversation start?
S: Andi [Andrea] and I had enough with being employees of other people’s ideas. We’d both been in the food industry for a really long time and so we said “let’s take a fucking risk and do our own thing!”… There’s something charming about small spaces serving one thing. So, we sat down one afternoon and thought about what our product was going to be. It needed to be flexible enough to change with the seasons, tell stories and celebrate local ingredients. I remember donuts was one of our first ideas!
A: Pie is traditional, man. We’re not trying to do something new; we want to do something well with all the ingredients B.C. has to offer.
THE ORIGINAL SHOP | Winter, 2012
In terms of partnership, what are your official roles?
S: Every year, we alternate. One year Andi is the president and the next year, it’s me. When it gets tough and we’re flying by the seats of our pants, Andi and I get into automatic roles that just get shit done.
What do these automatic roles look like?
S: We just divide and conquer as we go. It balances out. There are tasks, like accounting, that I take care of, while Andi cleans the hell out of the shoppe. Since we’re incorporated, there’s also some legal stuff I manage and relay over to Andi.
A: And sometimes it doesn’t get relayed properly because Stephanie doesn’t even understand the legal jargon shit she’s trying to explain! *Stephanie laughs*
How do you guys decompress together?
S: Well, while we were building the business, a lot of nice breweries opened. Sometimes we need to put the shop aside and remember to go for a beer as sisters.
A: We also try to take time off so that when we work our asses off, there is a light at the end of the tunnel like a vacation in Costa Rica. We also make food for our friends. We have long table dinners and have fun making meals like roast beef because that’s what we ate growing up.
S: We had Sunday roast every week. That was really important to our parents and grandparents. We grew up with a very social home and we continue that with our friends.
How, if at all, has being siblings been a benefit to the shop?
S: We inspire each other based on our childhood experiences and translate them into a flavour. We have very similar taste buds.
Are there disadvantages to being siblings in a business?
A: Oh yeah, we drive each other crazy… When we’re both stressed out and pissed off about something, we will take it out on each other.
S: We’re not done learning from this experience [the shoppe], even when we’re bickering.
A: Steph and I don’t get along everyday but neither of us could imagine doing this with anybody else. We can hash out shit on each other but at the end of the day she will still be my sister.
S: People always tell you to never to go into business with family and we have broke that rule.
THE NEW SHOP | Summer, 2016
What is the best thing about working together?
A: It’s the fact that we still get to enjoy each other’s company. We’re very far from the rest of our family. It’s just the two of us here in Vancouver, so we get to have this experience together.
S: We get to share in the experience. I’m not alone in the struggle and I get to celebrate the successes with my best friend, sister and business partner.
Ken you are such a delight. Thank you for transcribing our long- ass conversation into a brilliant interview that absolutely nailed our challenging sister dynamic and partnership. Thanks buddy!
It was and always will be a pleasure, Stephanie.