Pie has always been a part of Little Pie Company founder Arnold Wilkerson’s life, though his journey into professional pie making was nothing short of extraordinary.
Arnold grew up on a farm in the San Joaquin Valley, where he and his grandmother would often pick berries and can them the same day. “We’d go out into the orchard and get peaches and plums and pears or whatever fruit was available, and then mother would make pies over the weekend,” Arnold said.
But before becoming a professional pie-maker and the owner of Little Pie Company, Arnold was an actor. He studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and made his Off-Broadway debut in the original production of Hair, starring alongside Dustin Hoffman and Rue McClanahan in Jimmy Shine on Broadway. When he wasn’t acting, Arnold was waiting on at five-star restaurants. As a treat for his favorite customers, Arnold would bake them pies to take home.
One of these ladies happened to be a friend of a writer from New York magazine. That writer wrote: “Buy, buy this American Pie” and put his phone number up there.
“The next thing I knew, the phone was ringing off the hook, and I had to quit my job,” Arnold said.
His first professional foray into pie making was out of his apartment – and his neighbors' apartments too.
“I’d bought a bunch of timers, and asked the people on my floor of my apartment building if I could use their kitchens,” Arnold said. “I was able to time going from apartment to apartment, and bring out the pies. And the kids – they would be the delivery people, taking these pies around to different parts of the city. I turned the 43rd floor of Manhattan Plaza into a bakery.”
In the beginning, Arnold was working 18 or 20 hours a day and ended up running through four or five ovens. When he wasn’t delivering, he was baking. When he wasn’t baking, he’d sit there and cut apples.
“And then, right out of a B movie, a banker was in the restaurant having my pie, and she said: 'I want to meet this Arnold.' She made it possible for me to get my first loan to start my business. And, you know what? Within a year, I paid that loan back."
This story was adapted from the W42ST article, "Arnold Wilkerson — The Actor who Makes Broadway’s Favorite Pies."
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When the City of New York acquired this lot to house Engine 65 in 1895, clubs and residents around the area feared it would disturb the peace. Having calls since their very first night on the job, and as the first responder to Times Square, it became clear that the service was needed and soon became wildly appreciated. One of the firemen, Chris, told me this was something he had always wanted to do. “I love the camaraderie between the guys, ” he said, a theme that seems to reoccur throughout all Manhattan fire stations.