Punk and pie: Woodpecker Pies sets up shop inside the Mothlight

SWEET AND SAVORY: The Mothlight in West Asheville is adding hand pies to the nightly lineup. Woodpecker Pies, the brainchild of Vincent Gagnon and Matt Bailey, will crank out their made-from-scratch mini meals from a small space near the Mothlight's back gallery following renovations. “It's going to be very intimate,” Gagnon jokes about the space. “Matt and I will really get to know each other.” Pictured, from left to right, are Mothlight owners Jon and Amanda Hency, Matt Bailey and Vincent Gagnon. Photo courtesy of Woodpecker Pies

Asheville is about to get pied — in the hand. Business partners Vincent Gagnon and Matt Bailey, who recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund their business opening, have lofty goals of becoming Asheville’s first exclusive pie purveyors (mini-hand pies, specifically). The joint venture will begin operating from within the Mothlight by this summer, if all goes according to plan.

“We have the best crust,” Gagnon says, listing chicken pot pie, steak and ale pie and caramelized onion as planned savory staples. The two will also serve dessert options like their signature dish. Like the company, it’s named after a Tom Robbins book.

“The woodpecker pie is a sweet pie — basically a coconut and molasses chess pie,” explains Gagnon. He and Bailey opted to make that flavor sweet, lest customers assume woodpecker meat was an ingredient.

The quirky duo, who have both pursued culinary careers for decades, ramped up their kitchen experiments after a productive brainstorming session unfolded one night at the Junction (where both still work). The idea for Woodpecker Pies, Gagnon says “piggybacks” off specialty eats like Vortex Doughnuts and Hole Doughnuts, but pies came to mind when the two considered Asheville’s unmet culinary needs.

Amanda Hency, co-owner of the Mothlight, pounced when she caught wind of the concept, eventually agreeing to help upfit her venue’s back offices (beside the gallery) into a workable kitchen.

“From the beginning we have been waiting for the right people to come along with the right idea for the space,” she says. “Hand pies make perfect sense to pair with a music venue. Just like tacos at The Grey Eagle are perfect, easy handheld food that requires no utensils can be eaten at a table or standing with a crowd in front of the stage.”

Sweet options will cost $5 each, while savory flavors will ring up at $7 per pie. And with a diameter of about 5 inches, the pie is “a lot more filling than we thought it would be,” according to Bailey. The duo will supplement their regular pies with seasonal flavors and gluten-free options when possible. Plus, they’ll have vegan and full-sized pies available by special order.

The good stuff in the middle, they say, will be cooked using the sous vide method before assembly and a final stint in the on-site oven. “What you end up with is food that retains its moisture and tenderness, but that you can slow cook,” explains Bailey.

Although Gagnon and Bailey haven’t contracted with suppliers yet, they hope to get meats from local farms and veggies from Mountain Foods. “Basically, we’re just staying away from major food distributors,” Gagnon says.

Once Woodpecker Pies takes flight, the handheld meals will be available during opening hours at the Mothlight (5 p.m. to post-show), with non-concertgoers welcome to pop in for a to-go bite as well. For now, though, the team is working on its recently launched Kickstarter campaign to fund legal fees and permits, kitchen equipment, the kitchen build-out and the initial food order.

“We are so excited that food will be available here for our clientele,” says Hency, “and [we’re] hopeful that Matt and Vincent’s amazing pies will attract more people.”

For a sneak preview of Woodpecker Pies, visit the Mothlight, 701 Haywood Road, on Mondays, April 20 and 27, and May 4, from 8-10 p.m., when Gagnon and Bailey will host a pop-up pie stand with free samples (first come, first served until pies run out; donations appreciated).

About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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3 thoughts on “Punk and pie: Woodpecker Pies sets up shop inside the Mothlight

  1. Helen

    Can you do a follow up story on this start up. They were funded, but nothing has happened that I can see.

    • Kat McReynolds

      Hey Helen — Good idea. I have reached out to Vincent and Matt for a progress update. I’ll keep you posted here. Thanks!

    • Kat McReynolds

      Hey, Helen — I just heard from Vincent. He says he and Matt are searching for contractors to complete the build out. Because many are overbooked with larger projects, they’re having a hard time finding someone to do their relatively small job. They need to complete their upfits before the permitting process can move along. Vincent also just became a dad, so that is likely contributing to a shortage of time (and sleep).

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