It would be too easy to say Hubig’s pies are flying off the shelves — because now they’re gone.
By noon on Friday, finding a Hubig’s Pie in Baton Rouge was all but impossible, as devotees of the iconic New Orleans treats scoured local grocery stores for their favorite flavors after news that a massive fire had engulfed the longtime Dauphine Street pie plant earlier in the morning.
“One woman came in here this morning and bought 20 of them. She said she’d put them in her freezer,” said Pat Jones, a manager at Matherne’s Supermarket on Bluebonnet Boulevard. “And I don’t know if we’re going to get anymore.”
Other stores like Calandro’s Supermarket on Perkins Road and Calvin’s Bocage Market were also Hubig-less.
“We had 150 on hand this morning, and now look, three left,” said Tim Stevens, store manager at Matherne’s, pointing to few picked-over Hubig’s apple pies about 11:30 Friday morning. “And I talked to the distributor, and he says, he’s out.”
Operations manager Andrew Ramsey, who stood across the street from the Hubig’s factory watching firefighters douse smoldering embers and talking to a steady stream of well-wishers, told The Associated Press that the bakery made about 100,000 pies a week and had 35 to 40 employees.
He couldn’t tell the AP when the factory might be operational again, but promised: “There will be pies.”
Cami Geisman had to make seven stops Friday before finally coming across Hubig’s pies at a gas station on Airline Highway. She bought all 17 of the remaining lemon- and apple-flavored pies. Geisman, a deputy communications officer in Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne’s office, shared the pies with others on the staff, and Dardenne himself, whose Facebook page has a photo of him biting into one of the pies.
“I think everyone really just loves and appreciates Hubig’s pies,” Geisman said. “They’re a great Louisiana product.
“And I think what you love about them is they just remind you of home,” she added.
For 90 years, the Simon Hubig Pie Co. factory churned out its now famous pies in assorted flavors from the Bywater pie plant.
They came with fillings like chocolate, coconut, blueberry, apple, lemon, sweet potato and others.
But a five-alarm blaze about 4:30 a.m. Friday destroyed the factory.
No injuries were reported, and the inferno was under control by about 6:40 a.m., the New Orleans Fire Department reported in a news release. Ninety-five firefighters — two-thirds of the New Orleans firefighters on duty at the time — responded to the scene, Fire Department officials said.
Before it was all over, the roof collapsed, the decorative front wall fell into Dauphine Street and most of the interior was destroyed, the department said. The cause is still under investigation, said Michael Williams, a public information officer with NOFD.
According to company officials, two or three Hubig’s employees were in the building at the time the fire began.
The fire is believed to have started in the center of the building, in an area called the fry-room, and spread quickly throughout the factory.
Ramsey told AP that the fire started during a cleaning process in a gas-powered cooker and that the bakery didn’t make pies on Friday.
He said a night receiving clerk called 911.
Two occupied doubles, at 2411 and 2425 Dauphine St., were the only other buildings with immediate exposure. The residents of the homes were evacuated and firefighters were able to prevent any significant fire damage to the interior of the homes, the Fire Department said.
The New Orleans bakery was the only one in a chain founded in Fort Worth, Texas, to survive the Great Depression. The company shut down after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in August 2005. It reopened in January 2006.