PEOPLE IS KNOWN FOR PROFILING MEN and women whose lives have been singed by fame. But for some, like Memphis baker Sarah Clayborne, known as the Pie Lady, things heated up after she appeared in the magazine. Three months ago (Nov. 22,1993) we ran a story about the successful pie business that was born of Clayborne’s need to pay for long-term care for her daughter Eugenia Binkins, 24, who was disabled in 1987 after being shot in the head by robbers. “The minute that article came out, my business quadrupled,” says Clayborne, 44. “The phone was ringing off the hook.”
Those who dialed the Pie Lady included editors at William Morrow, the publishing house, who wanted to put out a cookbook featuring her creations. Due out in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas 1994, the book is a coup for Morrow, since it will be the first lime Clayborne reveals her recipes. (Not even her five employees are privy to the secrets behind her popular concoctions.)
On Jan. 12, the Pie Lady moved from her original store to a bigger location on Florida Street in downtowm Memphis and her entire stock of 100 pies was sold out by noon. Clayborne has also established a toll-free number for long-distance orders and this summer plans to open a Pie Lady museum to inspire future entrepreneurs.
For Clayborne, success is sweet in part because it allows her to support Eugenia, who is herself the mother of sons Carmi, 9, and Ahab, 5. “I want to bake my daughter back to health,” Clayborne says, adding that her immediate goal is to make enough money to hire a personal aide for Binkins, who is physically incapacitated and lives in a local nursing home. Clayborne’s ultimate dream: opening a rehab hospital to serve others like Binkins.
“What makes her so inspirational,” says correspondent David Hutchings, who interviewed Clayborne, “is the quiet grace with which she conducts her daily life. She has found some peace and understanding in an unfair world. And look out! There’s sorcery in those pies!”