Made in RVA: Mary D. Lee’s sweet potato pies on the cusp of going national

HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — For this week’s Made in RVA, Morgan Dean met a local baker who is on the cusp, or make that the crust, of going national. He dug in to Mary D Lee’s Kitchen.

Mary Lee of Mary D Lee’s Kitchen says her sweet potato pies are homemade and made with love.

As for the actual ingredients and the recipe for her pies, those are a secret. But we can tell you they are North Carolina-styled sweet potato pies by way of Long Island, New York, based on a recipe from Lee’s late mom.

Lee admits she probably wouldn’t be making her mouthwatering pies if she hadn’t won a cooking contest at her work several years ago.

“They came through, tried my pie because I entered a contest,” she said. “It won hands down. From that point on, it was like I got to do something.”

After that contest, Lee started regularly making the treat for family, friends and coworkers who asked for them. They were so popular, her customers urged her to go into business making them. So she created Mary D Lee’s Kitchen and had her home kitchen certified. After that, she aimed high sending a letter to Walmart to ask them to start carrying her pies.

Earlier this year, after doing a successful taste test at the Short Pump Walmart, she earned a trip to Arkansas to pitch her pies to corporate executives.

“I started crying,” she said. “It was very exciting.”

Walmart liked her pies and wants them in them in the stores but a nationwide rollout is too much for her to do by herself. She and the retail giant are now in the process of finding a company that can mass produce the pies based on her recipe.

“I want people to know when it comes to anything, it’s a process. Rome wasn’t built in a day. There are so many intricate details that are involved.” Lee said.

She hopes to have the pies in Walmart by next year but says there are still lots of things to be worked out.

You can get her pies here in town by ordering them online through her kitchen and picking them up from her.

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