Most of us don’t work for 68 years without retiring, period, let alone work at the same place for nearly seven decades! However, Mary Woodruff is no ordinary human! The matriarch and 103-year-old has run her pie shop for the last 68 years and still helps today! Meanwhile, she passed on her love not just to her daughter, who now runs the store, but the entire community…
The 68 Year Old Pie Shop
They say age is just a number – and people like Mary Woodruff are proof! Woodroof first opened her pie store, Woodruff’s Store: Café & Pie Shop, in Monroe, Virginia, all the way back in 1952! When the 103-year-old opened the location along with her husband, it was incredibly uncommon for black people to own their own businesses. However, this wasn’t anything new for Mary! Believe it or not, Mary’s grandfather was a freed slave and opened one of the first blacksmith shops in America! In fact, it was was one of the first-ever black-owned businesses. And it sat right across from where the pie shop is today!
Back in the ’50s, the couple lived in a little apartment over the pie shop and ran their business with a whole lot of love. “We were happy. We were just getting ready to do something together. And we did. And I’ve been blessed,” Woodruff shares.
A Hardworking American Family
As you might imagine, running Woodruff’s Store: Café & Pie Shop wasn’t always easy. The Woodruffs’ daughter, Angela Scott, remember some of the most difficult moments, when they faced violence as black business owners, and as women. “They had a couple bricks thrown through the window,” Scott said. “And then my sisters integrated the schools in Amherst County. And as soon as that happened, there were a lot of (white) people who didn’t like that, so they stopped patronizing the business.”
In fact, things became so bad, that the store closed down in 1982. However, after just a few years, the Woodruffs’ daughter, Angela Scott, insisted the family not abandon their beating heart, the pie shop. So, the family reopened the place in 1998, with Scott running it alongside her mother. “I just really do think it was a God thing. It was the legacy that I wanted to carry on. This is what I’m supposed to do” shared Scott. Still, there was a long road ahead…
“Pie Is Love”
Reopening the shop in the late ’90s wasn’t easy. The family found it difficult attracting customers, and they mostly sold sandwiches. “It was off the beaten path. It had been closed for so many years. There were days that we didn’t have a customer, maybe one or two,” the business owner admitted. “But Mama just kept going, ‘Angie, you gotta have faith, it’s gonna be fine.’ I think if it hadn’t been for her, I probably would’ve closed.”
So then Scott realized: pies. It was the pies that made the place so unique, familiar, and beloved. And indeed, business bloomed. Today, Woodruff’s Store: Café & Pie Shop sells around 75 handmade pies every day. Scott is inspired by cookbooks, family dishes, and of course – her mother, who still helps runs the business. She knows the customers, the recipes, and the feel of the place. “Pie is love. When you bite into a piece of pie, it just makes you feel loved,” her daughter said.