What do you get when you cross the jolliness of Santa Claus with the entrepreneurial spirit of Richard Branson? You get Bob Whitworth, founder and operator of Calgary pie empire Simple Simon Pies. - The Calgary Journal, November 4, 2009
It sounds simple but the little pie company that could had it's auspicious beginnings in a garage. After experiencing two successful ventures in the food industry, Bob Whitworth, (originally from merry old England and founder of Simple Simon Pies) found himself with a machine for making pastry in 1987. He decided to make a few pies using a friends pizza parlor kitchen and stored them in freezers in his garage. He then sold them at an outdoor farmers market. Right from the beginning he knew that if people sampled his pies, they would buy them. He sold all of his pies that day. He figured he was on to something.
Bob (also known to many as “Simon”) opened a storefront in downtown Calgary on the corner of 7th Avenue and Centre Street. Many business people and downtown shoppers would flock to his shop to buy frozen pies to take home. For those that did not know about his pies, walking past the storefront and smelling the pies being cooked was all that was needed to bring them in the door. From there they would be encouraged to taste several pies and in the blink of an eye a new convert was made.
Unfortunately, the building was sold and “Simples” needed to find a new home. First stop was the Blackfoot Farmers Market (which was a seasonal outdoor market), and then Crossroads Market located off of Blackfoot Trail and Ogden Road. A popular landmark, the market currently has over one million customers browse through their stalls each year. Along with picking up some pies, customers can purchase fresh veggies to complete the meal.
Bob was one of the founding members of the Calgary Farmers' Market located at Currie Barracks that opened in July of 2004. The market became a destination shopping mecca for those seeking fresh, local products. People would line up to get a tasty sample of Bob's wares and most people left the market with a white pizza box full of Simple Simon Pies. Starting off with a modest menu, our pie menu now offers 21 different varieties of delicious savoury pies along with fruit tarts and several cheesecakes to fulfill the sweet tooth craving.
In 2010 the market moved to a building just off of Blackfoot Trail and Heritage Drive in the southeast where it remains today. Each weekend, throngs of shoppers make their way to the market which Fast Forward Weekly has named the Calgary Farmers Market the Best Farmers' Market in Calgary for the past 4 consecutive years. The readers also voted Simple Simon Pies the Best Farmers Market vendor of 2012. In March 2014 Bob received the Volunteer Award for all of Alberta from the Alberta Farmers Market Association.
Around the same time, Bob decided to expand his menu by adding meals. Feedback from customers was amazing and soon the meal menu expanded to include 11 different varieties, 10 of which are gluten-free. Following the success of the meals, Bob then turned his attention to soups. We currently have 20 varieties, 13 of which are gluten-free. Helping people have nutritious food that is easy to prepare has been Bob's ultimate goal.
In 2011, Simple Simon pies became available at local Co-op Stores in Calgary, Airdrie, Strathmore and High River. Co-op's vision is to make a difference by providing local products at great prices. This partnership has been extremely successful and has led to the addition of offering frozen soups as well as featuring hot Simple Simon Soups in the deli department.
The summer of 2013 brought a new farmers market to Calgary, located at Symons Valley Ranch. Simple Simon Pies was one of the first vendors to commit to the new market. Being able to provide pies, soups and meals to those living in the northwest corridor was a no-brainer. Many people stopping by the booth have commented how grateful they are to have a farmers market in the northwest and particularly because they can get their pies, soups and meals close to home.
Our latest venture is providing a sampling of pies, soups and meals to Co-op gas bars. This allows the person on the go to grab some nutritious food that they can heat up at the gas bar or take it with them to heat up at the office or home.
Bob is not only an entrepreneur but has a strong desire to make a difference in the community. For several years Simple Simon Pies has offered not-for-profit groups the opportunity to make money fundraising by selling pies and meals. Hundreds of groups including schools, sports teams, and companies raising money for charity have had successful campaigns selling Simple Simon products or vouchers (to be redeemed at any of the farmers markets).
Living and working in Calgary, community engagement is important to our business. Over the years Simple Simon has supported events such as Gallery Calorie, CBC Stampede Breakfast, Upscale Bakesale (partnership through Suncor and CBC to raise money for the Food Bank), and provided food to the volunteers at Southland Leisure Centre when it was an evacuation centre during the flood of June 2013. We are also a proud sponsor of the Calgary Folk Music Festival.
Simple Simon also provides a home delivery service. Orders for delivery may be placed by phoning our shop directly or through e-mail. Please refer to the appropriate link for ordering instructions.
A successful business relies not only on the vision of the leader but the hard work of the employees. Simple Simon Pies has an amazing, loyal staff that strive each day to provide quality products and excellent customer service. They even say glowing things about Bob when writing about him.
Just like the age-old nursery rhyme, "Says Simple Simon to the Pieman...let me taste your ware" we encourage you to visit us at one of our farmers market locations where you are welcome to sample any of the savoury pies, fruit pies, cheesecakes, meals or soups. It's always nice to be able to taste what you're buying before actually making the purchase. We're confident that one taste is all it will take...you'll be hooked! We've always guaranteed our product. If you don't like a pie for whatever reason, then we will either replace it or refund your money. It doesn't get any better than that now does it?
Thank you for visiting us...we look forward to seeing you soon.