- Associated Press - Saturday, March 27, 2021

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - You can’t taste a freshly fried Hubig’s pie just yet. And Andrew Ramsey knows some locals still doubt they ever will again.

But Ramsey is confident the factory he’s building will soon be churning out the beloved little hand pies by the thousands, putting a revered local brand back in circulation.

After nine years in limbo, Hubig’s Pies are almost back. Ramsey, the next-generation owner of the company, won’t lay out any precise timelines. But as of today, he believes the pies will be back on store shelves in “a matter of months.”

“We are in the final stretch,” Ramsey said.

Work has been progressing at the new production facility and home base for Hubig’s, located in a warehouse just off Jefferson Highway near the Huey P. Long Bridge.

The company has brought back some of its former employees from the old days, including key production and operations personnel, and it is now posting job ads for more workers.

Throughout the process though, Ramsey has been reluctant to make promises about return dates. He knows how much Hubig’s means to many people, and he doesn’t want to set expectations when he can’t control the myriad factors needed to fulfill them.

“As a company, we lost everything except our goodwill,” he said. “And we don’t want to burn through that.”

In business since 1921, Hubig’s Pies became more than just a familiar convenience food in New Orleans. The grab-and-go treats, which could be found at the grocery, the hardware store or gas station, were inexpensive products that became part of New Orleans’ daily routine, and thus ingrained in the hearts of a city that loves its rituals.

A fire wiped out Hubig’s historic home in Faubourg Marigny back on July 27, 2012. Its owners pledged to return, but a split in the business partnership behind the company led to many years of delays.

Early last year, Ramsey said he was hopeful production could begin in the summer of 2020. Of course, 2020 had other ideas in store, and the pandemic brought cascading delays.

But Ramsey acknowledges his own approach has been a painstaking one. That’s because he’s not just out to relaunch a well-known brand, but also bring back an experience. He’s determined to recreate each detail of the pies - the flavor, the feel, the look and even the feel of the crinkly paper wrappers.

“The next pie you have will resemble the last pie you had in every which way,” said Ramsey. “It’s going to be identical.”

Hubig’s was known for cooking from scratch, and now the company is being remade from scratch, too.

Ramsey has been foraging for vintage equipment from old plants and former suppliers, and refurbishing pieces that were salvaged from the Marigny facility.

He bought one machine, which cuts dough into oblong hand pie shapes, “from the grandson of the guy who sold the original to my grandfather,” Ramsey said.

And the process continues, with icing mixers, pot washers, dough mixers, fryers, cooling spirals and wrapping machines.

Month after month, the many different pieces required to bring back these little hand pies have been building up.

Ramsey knows anticipation for Hubig’s lovers has been building too. That’s why he’s zeroed in on making sure the revived pies are up to the standard people remember.

“We’re making progress,” Ramsey allowed.

Before the fire, the plant produced an average of 25,000 pies a day. Ramsey said the new facility will have the capacity to exceed that number. They’ll be distributed to lots of different outlets, including groceries, gas stations and convenience stores.

The lineup of flavors will be the same as before, with apple, lemon, peach, pineapple, chocolate and coconut prepared year-round. Seasonal flavors will also return to the roster for limited runs, including blueberry, blackberry, cherry and sweet potato.

The Hubig’s pie origin story goes back to the early 20th century, when Simon Hubig set up a bakery in Fort Worth, Texas. He expanded to build a regional chain that reached as far as Cincinnati.

All of the factories folded as the Depression and the rationing of World War II took their toll, with the lone exception of the New Orleans location. It kept churning out the hand pies from the same Dauphine Street building until the 2012 fire.

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