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Lisa’s Pies: She Beat Cancer & Now She Sells the Sweet Flavor of Success

Lisa’s Pie Shop

Lisa Sparks doesn’t like pie, she doesn’t eat pie, and she has never visited a pie shop. This might not seem like anything unusual or special, except that Lisa Sparks is the owner of Lisa’s Pie Shop in Atlanta, Indiana—and her pies win state and national awards.

Cancer & A Pie Contest

Sparks’ success story is one for the books, and it begins approximately 32 years ago when she discovered she had cancer at 29. At the time, she was unhappily working in a factory. Then, one day as she was attempting to teach herself to bake when her husband’s best friend’s mother told her “If you put ‘this’ in the crust and ‘this’ in the filling, you’ll never have a bad pie.” Sparks took her advice, entered her pie in a local contest and won. That was the moment everything changed. (Note: Lisa would share the secret ingredients are.)

After a full hysterectomy—inspired by her big win—Sparks decided life was too short to spend doing something she didn’t enjoy and set her mind on opening a pie shop.

The way she tells it, things went sour when she told her husband of her plans. To put it lightly, he was not pleased and doubted the venture (and possibly their marriage) would work out. “If you’re a woman, and you’ve got something to prove to your husband, you’re going to do whatever you need to do,” says Sparks. And so she went to work proving him wrong.

Pie Shop
photo: via Hamilton County Tourism

The Hard Work of Proving Men Wrong

Sparks started out baking in her own kitchen and selling her pies to local restaurants and grocery chains. Without taste-testing even one, she managed to make plenty of palate-pleasing pies, and after 12 years she was ready to open her own shop. 

Located on US-31 in the northern part of Hamilton County, some might say the spot Sparks chose for her shop is in “the middle of nowhere.”

“People thought I was crazy for building out in the middle of nowhere,” says Sparks, “I say, I’m out in the middle of everywhere.” She believes people will drive for something they like. With the success her shop has seen since opening, it seems she’s right.

pie shop
photo: via Hamilton County Tourism

What’s in a Name?

Sparks doesn’t believe in using credit, so she earned every penny for every piece of equipment she needed and paid for it in cash. Then she set to work. She didn’t look to peers for direction, and she has never stepped foot in another pie shop looking for inspiration. If you ask her why, she’ll tell you, “ I don’t do what anyone else does because my name is Lisa—not Sarah Lee or Betty Crocker—it’s Lisa.”

Lisa’s Pie Shop is old school in many ways. She doesn’t use computers or surf the net, she makes everything by hand, and she certainly doesn’t take credit cards because she says, “No one should go into debt buying a pie.” But none of this has held her back from finding success.

photo: via Hamilton County Tourism

The Sweet Taste of Success

Along with continuing to create pies that earn national awards and recognition, Sparks bakes 500 to 600 pies a day and an over 2,000 for Thanksgiving. Her guest book is filled with names from all over the world and she ships her pies to locations across the US.

Sparks and her husband worked things out. In fact, he now joins her in the kitchen with her small staff, which consists of just two additional employees.

Fans can purchase fruit pies, cream pies, and specialty pies from her shop (or order online). She even sells Lisa’s Pie in a Jar!

“I love stories, and God’s given me a great story,” says Sparks whose tale is truly inspiring. It’s a firm reminder of the value of life and the importance of believing in one’s own self—even when others don’t.

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Annette Benedetti
Annette Benedetti
Annette is a writer, editor and photographer from Portland, OR. Her work appears in a variety of publications including Bust, Red Tricycle, Motherly and Domino. When she’s away from her desk she can be found teaching women yoga at wilderness retreats, exploring new cities across the states and hiking the trails at Mt. Rainier—one of her favorite places on earth.
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