Pie makers in overdrive at Sarasota Amish restaurant

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SARASOTA - Preparations are already underway in many homes for the big Thanksgiving Day meal; that can mean stirring, chopping and baking. Or for many Suncoast families, that can mean making a phone call and reserving a pie at Yoder's Amish Village restaurant.

For many on the Suncoast, it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a Yoder's pie. And the restaurant's kitchen is working hard to meet the demand.

"We actually started production a couple of weeks ago; things we can do ahead of time. But we anticipate making close to 6,000 pies this year," says Yoder’s president, Todd Emrich.

12 pie-baking experts are busy working their magic. "We made around 500 yesterday, that was pecan and pumpkin," says baker Viola Jess.

But other flavors must wait till the last minute. "On Wednesday, the selling day, we're making our cream pies all day long. We have a staff of people, and that pie has not been more than an hour old when we serve it."

So what's the secret of making a good pie? "You have to have quality ingrained to start with. Otherwise it's impossible to come up with a good quality product. And the other secrets are take your time, make sure it's baked properly, don't try to rush through it," says kitchen manager Steve Hochstetler.

There is something missing this year. Yoder's founder Amanda Yoder passed away last July. She and her husband opened the restaurant in 1976, and she immediately became famous for her homemade pies. "She would always marvel at how many pies we sold. Then Thanksgiving she would be so thrilled to think about how much joy it would bring to people’s tables all over the city."

Her pies gained national fame. Emrich, her son-in-law, says one reason her pies were so good is that she chose bakers with very special qualifications. “Years of experience…and I think it's also the Amish heritage, the background of a lot of our bakers. They've been doing it their whole lives."

Regular customer Amber Mast will be there Wednesday. She's a big Yoder's pie fan. She says the only problem you'll face is deciding which of the 32 flavors to select. "Their peanut butter pie is great, and their chocolate peanut butter pie is to die for, too."

Yoder's pies aren't cheap. A 10-inch is $16.95. But 6,000 of them will sell in just two days, so those customers must think they're worth it.

Thanksgiving pie delivery starts at Yoder’s Wednesday at 8am, and goes until 8pm. There will be four windows, and there will be someone directing traffic. They will be closed on Thanksgiving.

Yoder’s is located on Bahia Vista Street in Sarasota, just two blocks west of Beneva Road.