Before performing your upcoming Thanksgiving feast feat, let this local pie shop help you stick the landing. Because let’s face it—pie is the sweet finale we always save room for, and we can tell when it’s the real deal.
“A fresh, made-from-scratch pie conveys love, comfort and joy,” says Jan Knobel, co-owner of The Upper Crust Bakery in Downtown Overland Park. “Pie is nostalgic, meant to be shared, brings people together and makes people happy. Pie fixes everything.”
Knobel and her sister/business partner, Elaine VanBuskirk, have taken a “sweet nugget of our upbringing” and formed it into a successful business.
“But it’s a business that provides a real experience,” she says. “It's always heartwarming to hear customers share their family memories of pie.”
This small-batch, neighborhood bakery was voted “best pie in Kansas” by MSN this year and has been featured on The Daily Meal, 24/7 Wall Street, Food Network and The Pitch.
Within walking distance of the farmer’s market, it’s one-part upbeat hipster shop stocked with home accessories, kitchenware and hostess gifts and two-parts old-fashioned bakery with pies, cookies and quiche that are all grandma-good.
Imagine flaky fresh-baked crust and warm gooey centers bursting with berries, creamy custards and glossy meringues or decadent chocolate or nut fillings, along with seasonal flavors to satisfy the pie lover within your soul. With dozens of pie selections year-round, they rotate 12-14 flavors daily.
“We use family recipes or adapted favorites,” Knobel says. “We only use quality ingredients with no icky imitation flavorings, additives, mixes or preservatives.”
Full size 9-inch pies feed 6-8 or try the 5-inch Cutie Pies. Enjoy coffee from Thou Mayest or cold milk in a glass bottle with a paper straw. Sip wine-by-the-glass with special pricing for Third Fridays—where Downtown OP merchants stay open late. (Mark your calendars for Friday, Nov. 15.)
Third Fridays at The Upper Crust features Pie Flights from 5-8 p.m. (or sellout). Choose three slices from a pre-set menu for $9.
“Last month’s Pie Flight went through the roof,” Knobel says. “What a pleasant surprise!”
Thanksgiving, their premier holiday, will be even bigger. They’re now accepting orders with easy website ordering. Because they never freeze their pies, their baking window is only 48 hours, so it’s a first-order system. (Pickup is Wed., Nov. 27.)
Knobel and VanBuskirk started their business in 2005 with the help of their mom, Pie Master Pat Nuss.
“We grew up in Marion, Kan. where we were privileged to know what real pie looks and tastes like,” Knobel says. “Homemade pies were always a part of our upbringing.”
With Nuss’s guidance, these sisters debuted at the OP Farmer's Market, moved to a weekend bakery inside Pryde's Old Westport, then to their current location in 2011.
“Our roles are intertwined, but generally Elaine oversees the ‘front of the house’ while I oversee the back,” Knobel says. “We have such talented bakers and bakery assistants, and our front sales/service staff are critical to creating a positive customer experience. We’re extremely fortunate to have a helpful, happy and hardworking staff.”
The sisters’ families have been integral to the business over the years with their husbands having business roles, and their five children folding pie boxes, washing pans, mopping floors, etc.
“It’s definitely been a family affair,” Knobel says. “We’re fortunate that we like each other enough to want to work together, and outside work, our families still enjoy celebrating holidays or events together and just hanging out.”
The Upper Crust is committed to community, especially Downtown OP, with all tip jar proceeds donated to a different charity each month.
“Besides great customers, we have fabulous hardworking neighbors dedicated to making Downtown OP a destination for young and old alike,” Knobel says and adds with a grin, “And Patrick Mahomes…if you’re listening, come by and try our cherry pie.”
Wed.-Fri. 10 a.m - 5:30 p.m.
Sat. 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Third Fridays (except December) 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. for Pie Flights