By Johanne Harrigan
Founder: Marie Callender's restaurants and frozen foods
As the gluttony of the holiday season has passed, the time has come for New Year’s resolutions. Many will lament the inevitable bills from reckless holiday spending and vow to save more. Most will curse the extra holiday pounds gained in pursuit of the endless cookies, cakes, and pies and vow to start a diet. For those lovers of pastry in the latter group, one can bet that a hearty helping of blame can be served posthumously to the indisputable doyenne of pie, Marie Callender. Undoubtedly, many holiday pounds can be attributed directly to the legacy of Marie and her delicious pies.
Marie Callender was born in 1907 in Hennepin County, Minnesota. By the 1940s, the promise of endless sunshine and economic opportunity had beckoned Marie and her husband to Southern California. They settled in Orange County and had a son, Don.
Southern California, like much of the United States during the post-war years, was booming with economic opportunity. Recognizing that her family needed her less, and that she was hitting 40, Marie decided to pursue her dreams. She sold her new car for $700 and used the capital to start baking pies for profit. She began by baking exclusively for a local delicatessen, but soon attracted orders from many Orange County restaurants.
By 1948, Marie recognized a golden opportunity and realized that bigger orders demanded bigger quarters. With the help of her husband and son, she moved her home based bakery into a rented Quonset hut in Long Beach and invested in industrial ovens, mixers, and an official delivery truck. Within a few years, Marie went from selling 10 pies a day to selling more than 200 each day.
In 1964, the Marie Callender Pie Shop opened in Orange, California. As other shops began to appear in the 1960s, additional menu items were added until Marie Callender’s restaurants offered full service menus. With the help of her son Don, Marie’s restaurants expanded over the following decades to number over 200 locations. Her reputation continued to spread as her frozen pies and frozen meals began to appear in supermarket freezers in later years.
In 1986, Don Callender sold the business to Ramada, Inc. Marie retired, and lived the remainder of her years in Laguna Hills, California. She died of cancer at the age of 88 in 1995.
Marie Callender’s story offers inspiration to many women looking for that quintessential New Year’s resolution. First, it is never too late to start one’s life on that fulfilling-and profitable- path. Even with limited capital and experience, heart and ambition can go a long way. Second, sometimes those extra holiday pounds are well worth it.
About The Author:
Johanne Harrigan holds a Master's Degree in clinical social work from Fordham University and a Master's Degree in history from the State University of New York at Oswego. As a social worker, she worked primarily in mental health and medical settings. Her Master's thesis focused on the political evolution of the American Medical Association during the Progressive Era. Currently on hiatus from the world of paid employment, Johanne is a homeschooling mother of three bright, beautiful children.