A few weeks ago I received an email asking about how Kyle decided to become the “Pie Capital of Texas.” What follows is a slightly edited version of my response.
Thank you for reaching out.
I think in order to understand where the Pie Capital of Texas initiative originates, you have to go back several years. It started with the hiring of Scott Sellers, our city manager. Beyond his clear professional qualifications, Mr. Sellers was hired because he understood that Kyle needed to develop with a strong vision of itself.
As such, one of Mr. Seller’s primary goals when coming to Kyle was to create what he called a “primary lure.” Essentially, he wanted to help us develop a brand that could transcend the stigma of being a sleepy bedroom community. He constantly talked about how the most successful cities in Texas have something unique that sets them apart and attracts visitors and outside investment.
Katherine Anne Porter
In late 2015, Mr. Sellers worked with a group to develop a brand around our most famous author, Katherine Anne Porter. He applied much of the same concepts you see in the Pie Capital of Texas initiative, complete with unique signs around town, literacy related festivals, and opportunities for the business community to participate in the branding. I remember him pitching the “Porter House Steak,” the “Porter Ale,” and so on.
The concept never took off because, understandably, it lacked in achieving mass appeal. Not enough folks knew about Katherine Anne Porter. The festivals/events simply weren’t marketable in a way that would drive economic development and widespread notoriety. I was saddened to see this because I have read the story of Ms. Porter and some of her publishings. She is an incredible, Pulitzer winning author who deserves to be resurrected and celebrated en masse.
Noodling on pie
In 2016, we went back to the drawing board. Mr. Sellers put together what he called a “lunch bag” group made up of staff members, business owners, and citizen stakeholders. I participated in a couple of those meetings. We sat there trying to come up with something around which our city could brand itself. At one point, Mr. Sellers looked through his office window and saw a few people taking pictures on the square. He ran down and asked them why they were in Kyle. They said they stopped by to take a picture of our historic water tower and visit the Texas Pie Company.
Mr. Sellers came back upstairs and brought up the idea of a pie-related branding initiative. We all noodled on it for awhile. I remember going home and googling “Pie Capital of Texas.” Sure, there are other great pie shops in Texas, but the first business that came up was the Texas Pie Company. I thought to myself, “Wow, this might be what we’ve been looking for.” At the time, the Texas Pie Company had clearly distinguished itself with regards to creating a tourist attraction for Kyle. But beyond that, we knew that 1) everyone loves pie and 2) no other Texas city had yet claimed the Pie Capital moniker. It was the best idea we could come up with at the time. It was a risk, sure, but I figured life is short and Kyle needs to be creative less we get sucked into the endless and increasingly unidentifiable sprawl that is Austin.
A few months later, the idea gained momentum. The Texas Pie Company entered a nationwide contest for HEB called “Quest for Texas Best.” They won the grand prize and are now offering Pie Pucks in every single Texas HEB. That’s different, I thought. What other pie store can say that?
Shortly after, the city held its inaugural Pie in the Sky festival that used hot-air balloons and pie as the main draw.
The inaugural Kyle Pie in the Sky Hot Air Balloon Festival takes off Labor Day Weekend. Tickets go on sale Monday at Kyle City Hall and the Parks and at the Kyle Pard.
Posted by SMTX on Saturday, July 22, 2017
Despite Harvey rolling through town the week before, the festival was an enormous success. By our estimates around 12,000 people came to the two-day event. We took the event as a sign that we were on the right track. Feedback was very positive and, if the weather cooperates, we think this year’s festival will be even better.
The birth of the Pie Capital of Texas
After the festival, Mr. Sellers and city leadership decided the time had come to stop toying with the idea and embrace it. We applied to trademark the name and are proceeding with a myriad of initiatives to build brand awareness and community support. CertiPIEd is just one of those initiatives designed to help businesses capitalize on the brand.
With everything moving at the speed of pie, one important point simply cannot be overstated: We did not cook up the brand to singularly promote the Texas Pie Company. The Pie Capital of Texas initiative is all about identity and community — something around which we can all celebrate and from which we can all benefit. The idea came together organically by asking the question, “What’s unique about Kyle?”
In the end, I see the Pie Capital of Texas initiative as having two key benefits. First, it gives us an identity and helps us stand out as a community. Second, it creates an economic tool for us to use when trying to lure new business to our city. Both of these drivers will benefit all citizens in the city, and especially our burgeoning business community.
That said, we’re still in the early iterations of the initiative. It will certainly change as we discover what works and what doesn’t. Stay tuned!
ps- here are some links to news articles that have been generated about Kyle since we developed the initiative. Also, the videos page on this site has a story I filmed about Texas Pie Company back in 2015.
Kyle Seeks to become the Pie Capital of Texas – Eater Austin
This city wants to become the Pie Capital of Texas – Statesman
Kyle looks to sweeten city brand with pie trademark – Community Impact
Kyle seeks to become Pie Capital of Texas (video) – KVUE
Kyle, Texas wants to be the new “Pie Capital” of the Lone Star State – Chron.com
City of Kyle claims title “Pie Capital of Texas.” – FOX 7 Austin