Down East Customer Service

True story: I’m up in Maine on holiday, and yesterday it was time to seriously lay in provisions for the week–because arriving with scotch, a six pack of local beer and cheese crackers for my buddy the gull seemed, well, lacking.

So I drove into town for all the rest of the stuff adults are expected to consume. And on the way back, there was only one thing left to get. The Pie. There’s a general store on the edge of town that features local gourmet-grade food–the things that inevitably follow behind “artisanal,” “handcrafted” and “small batch.” At the same time, it fully understands the importance of wrapping all the hipster high-end in a semblance of local authenticity. Me, I say decide: either sell me on a bottle of 2008 Chappellet Signature Cabernet or update me on what those Winslow boys are have been up to. I’m good with each, just not both simultaneously.

But the general store is the only place where I can get The Pie–the very specific blueberry goodness that I demolish in the evenings, the portions meticulously planned to last the week. And so I steel myself and opened the door that has one of those bells on a bouncy armature above it. Same guy as always behind the counter–probably 60 but looks older, weathered by sea air.

“Hi there! What can I do ya?”

“I know what I need, thanks,” said as I head to rack where the pies are. This should be quick. Lots of pies, but not a sign of The Pie. “Any more blueberry?” I ask.

“Isn’t that blueberry special? Best damn blueberry pie in region, if I do say so. It’s won awards, ya know.” I did know.

“But are there any more of them in the back?”

“You’re not the first to come in askin’ for that specific pie. Nope–lots of people do. They know it’s the best pie they’ll ever have. And I have to agree! Heh!”

“So . . . you don’t have any?”

“Oh, no–all gone. Sold out, ya see. They sell out quick, because they’re maybe the best pie in these parts and the word’s spreadin’!”

“When will you be getting more?”

“Now that’s a good question–you must be a lawyer! Funny thing, too: lots of people ask me that. Had five . . . No, make that six people asked me that just today. Probably more like 16 if you count the family member standin’ behind ‘em also wantin’ to know.”

“Are they delivered daily?”

“Ha! That’s a good one. I only wish I knew–sometimes daily, sometimes not, sometimes only when she sees fit to make ‘em. Too bad, too, because it’s the best damn pie in these parts–maybe even the world. People want ‘em bad. I know I do. I can’t tell how many times I’ve had to tell folks that; it was almost like breakin’ news of a death. Because people really love that pie.”

“So no pie in the foreseeable future, then?”

“Never said that! Could be here today for all I know. If they do come in today, there’s gonna be a lot of happy people. Folks like yourself come up here for a week, expectin’ that pie–because it’s just so good!”

“Well, what time do they usually come in?”

“That’s another good one–you’re really askin’ the hard ones today, aren’t ya? Don’t have a time because there’s no specific time. Never has been. Those pies come in when they get here, make the whole place smell of blueberries–so good! Then, of course, they sell out–people want those pies, you know–best pies in region. Local blueberries. Everybody asks about those pies. I even wonder about ‘em. We all want ‘em, don’t we? Heh!” He gives me a knowing wink.

“Okay then–I’ll . . . I’ll just stop in until I’m lucky, I guess.”

“That’s the best plan because that’s what everybody else does–they pop in throughout the day, just lookin’ for those pies. Best, maybe, in the world. Wish I could have sold you one, but I can’t because everybody wants one. Too many people lookin’, not enough pies. Heh! Anythin’ else I help you with?”

“That really good cheddar you carry, I’ll have a wedge of that.”

“Oh, that’s great cheddar, isn’t it? Best around here. Easier to keep in stock than the pie. Love that cheese myself. It’s what I eat at home. People are always comin’ in askin’ about it.”

“So yeah, a wedge, please.”

“Wish I could, but I can’t–been telling that to people all day. We’re fresh out of cheddar, not sure when we’re gettin’ more. Funny thing about that, because not havin’ the cheddar has a lot to do with what the Winslow boys have been up to. You won’t believe the trouble they stirred up . . .”