The Perfect Pie is here on the Whitefish Chain


From left is Debra Flategraff, Elsie Van Horn and Mary Etta Durham, the women behind the famous Grandma Bettie Jane's Pies sold in the area. Photo by Kate Perkins

Over the years, a family of pie makers has become well known across the Whitefish Chain and beyond for their delicious pies. Grandma Bettie Jane's pies are a Whitefish favorite.

The pies are sold at Schaefer's Foods in Nisswa and at the A-Pine in Jenkins, and are made by the same women who comprised Mary Etta's Pies. Believe us, they are equally delicious as ever.

Whitefish Chain visitors might remember seeing Mary Etta's Pies around the area or hearing about "those awesome pies." They were made by Mary Etta Durham, a born and raised Jenkins resident who was a baker at local restaurants and bakeries, as well as the head cook at Pequot Lakes Schools for 30 years. After seeing the success of her pies at the restaurants and bakeries she'd worked for, Mary Etta decided that she should start her own pie business.

After many successful years of running Mary Etta's Pies, Mary Etta decided to sell her business. She stayed on with the purchasers for a few years, but after she left her pies fell off the radar. When Ted Schaefer, the owner of Schaefer's Foods, asked Mary Etta and her family to bake pies in his grocery store bakery, the women jumped on board. They named the pies Grandma Bettie Jane's, in honor of Schaefer's grandmother.

Today Mary Etta's daughter, Debra Flategraff, and sister, Elsie Van Horn, are the main pie bakers of the business. Mary Etta still comes in from time to time to help bake pies, though, and with her trained hand, it seems she could roll pie crusts with her eyes closed.

The pies have seen such success that the women sell nearly 10,000 a year from Schaefer's alone. They sell several thousand more at the A-Pine and at local fundraisers, bringing their annual pie estimate to well over 15,000.

Grandma Bettie Jane's pies are made the old fashioned way, with lard instead of butter or vegetable shortening. The crusts are flaky and the fruit pies are all made with fresh-frozen fruit. The trio makes more than 30 varieties of pies, including fruit pies, cream pies and meringue pies.

After the pies are assembled, they're frozen and baked by the Schaefer's bakery night crew. That means that the pies are always fresh on the shelves every day at Schaefer's Foods.

The pies have traveled the country, to Montana, Iowa, New York and beyond. Elsie remembers one couple who would fly in on their private plane to stock up on pies.

Their best seller? Apple or caramel apple is always a favorite. However, they've noticed that cherry has gained popularity in the last couple years or so. This reporter will attest that the pies have earned their reputation for being the best, most delicious pies in the area- and she has a pie tin of just crumbs to prove it.

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