- Associated Press - Saturday, May 6, 2017

MANASQUAN, N.J. (AP) - Ten years ago, Jay McConville’s life looked a lot different than it does now.

He was working in corporate America, as a general manager for Ruby Tuesday. For 20 years, he traveled from state to state, from New Hampshire to Tennessee, until he realized it was time for a change.

“I didn’t love it anymore,” McConville said on a recent weekday, seated at a table inside Sunburst Pie Co., a shop overlooking Manasquan’s Main Street. “I wanted something for me.”

Two years ago next month, after leaving his job and tending bar for a while at nearby Harpoon Willy’s and Harrigan’s Pub, he used his business expertise to go to work for himself: Sunburst Pie Co. belongs to him.

“I always liked this spot,” he told the Asbury Park Press (https://on.app.com/2q8UcKj) about his shop, which previously housed Sweet Tease Desserts. A counter overlooks Main Street, bistro tables fill the bakery, and scones, pies, brownies, cookies, pies and quiche fill the glass cases.

“I’ve always done the baking, always loved making pies,” McConville said, adding that his mother and grandmother taught him the basics. “I was brought up in a very scratch-made family. I was brought up with a wooden spoon in one hand and one across my butt.”

He realized his passion had business potential when, one Thanksgiving, he brought several pies to dinner and other guests asked where he bought them. Within three months, he was baking in a commercial kitchen.

Then, the “for rent” sign went up at the shop on Main Street.

At first, McConville sold fruit pies and cookies. Cream pies, hand pies, and scones, the latter of which now take up a lot of space in his case, came later. He started with three kinds of scones and within six months had created many more, sometimes making hundreds on the weekends. Each day, he offers a minimum of five varieties, adding more when he thinks up new flavor combinations. The regulars are blueberry, chocolate chip and cranberry walnut; others include coconut mango with a Key lime glaze, rum raisin, everything spice, and bacon, cheddar and scallion, among others.

As for pies, he makes five- and nine-inch varieties topped with crumbs or flaky crust and filled with seasonal fruits - “if it’s not in season, I’m not making it,” he said. His cream pies come in Key lime with a layer of lime zest-flecked creme fraiche on top, which “cuts through the tartness of the pie,” chocolate and banana, plus combinations like chocolate-covered banana; strawberry shortcake, which is vanilla cream, strawberries, whipped cream and crumbled vanilla bean scones; and chocolate coconut. The latter has chocolate ganache on the bottom, then coconut cream and more ganache mixed with toasted coconut.

“That chocolate melts in your mouth,” he said. “It tastes like a Mounds bar.”

Each pie’s top is marked with a sunburst: Years ago, McConville baked an apple pie for his mother and carved the shape into the crust. Now, it is his signature.

Flaky dough lends itself to much more than sweets: When the weather turned colder his first year at the shop, McConville made quiches filled with spinach, bacon, broccoli and cheese, roasted vegetables, crab and artichoke - “whatever’s good at the market,” he said. He also wraps the dough around traditional and not-so-traditional empanada fillings - beef; vegetables; sausage, egg and cheese; and pork roll, egg and cheese - and bakes them.

“I make what I like,” he said, adding that sometimes even he wonders how the flavor combinations come to him.

Then there are soups and scratch-made chicken pot pies - McConville makes stock for the gravy, roasts the chicken and the vegetables; these help his beach-town business prosper in the winter.

“More and more people are realizing it’s more than pie,” he said of his business.

But he is, however, known around town as “the pie guy.”

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Online:

https://on.app.com/2q8UcKj

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Information from: Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, https://www.app.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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