New York one year, London the next. Going global is proving to be a wild ride for Australia’s Pie Face, with its first US store in Manhattan yielding TV appearances, celebrity encounters, a US$15 million mega-deal with a casino mogul – and Americans loving its smiley-face pies, particularly the sweet ones.
Next year looks just as hectic. Pie Face may open its first store in London and proceed with its IPO and listing on the Australian Securities Exchange. It’s all part of building the business into a global brand, says Pie Face co-founder Wayne Homschek, a former Wall Street banker.
Being an entrepreneur is miles ahead of banking,” declares Homschek, now based in New York for much of the year with his co-founder wife Betty Fong and two young daughters. “This year we will open about 20 stores in Australia and around four in the US,” he says. “Next year we will try to open 12 to 16 stores in the US.”
When Pie Face opened its Manhattan store in the US winter in January it was a smash-hit success, with the shop outselling any Australian store and New Yorkers lining the street. The business featured on David Letterman’s TV show. Letterman’s studio is conveniently located upstairs in the same Broadway building – one reason Homschek chose the site.
Summer in New York City revealed a continuing appetite for the pies. “Lines have settled at lunchtime, but business is stronger in the evenings,” Homschek says. “On the whole, the store is trading very well in what is the slowest period for NYC.”
Americans have a sweeter palate, so the menu has been adjusted. “Americans are into the sweet pies more than Aussies and buy them by the six- and 12-pack,” he says. “We have developed a key lime pie for summer and a pumpkin pie as well.”
Being an entrepreneur is miles ahead of banking. This year we will open about 20 stores in Australia and around four in the US.– Wayne Homschek
Homschek says keeping the brand special has been a big part of the success of Pie Face. With network sales running at about A$40 million a year, Pie Face has secret patented recipes and has started manufacturing outside Australia for the first time, at a Brooklyn factory.
Start-up expenses in New York have been astronomical, but Homschek says London should be better. “The UK should be an easier market in my view, as the processes are more like Australia and the rent-build costs lower than New York,” he says.
“We are in discussions in the UK and may launch there next year. There is a real hole in the market there for our offer and the Brits are very familiar with pies – but they don’t have anything like Pie Face at the moment.” New Zealand, Japan and other parts of Asia are also on the radar, he says.
Pie Face this year scored a major coup with a US$15 million investment from billionaire Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynne. Admits Homschek: “We have had other offers so we would have managed without him, but we are very fortunate to have his support and I am thankful for that every day.”
This article is from the October 2012 issue of INTHEBLACK magazine.