If you ever drive between Wichita and Oklahoma City on I-35, you’ve no doubt noticed the frequent, tantalizing billboards, printed in giant red type, just daring you not to stop.
But now, there’s devastating dessert news.
Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies, the little roadside shop set up in a solitary former Stuckey’s building just off exit 211 in Tonkawa, Okla., is about to close. Its last day in business will be Sunday, Aug. 27.
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The shop, which is an hour’s drive south of Wichita and specializes in old fashioned fried hand pies, is closing because its owners, Kurtis and Casey Stoll, have moved three hours away to Calvin, Okla., where Kurtis has become head pastor at the First Baptist Church.
He has to leave the fried pies – and his many customers who travel to get them – behind.
“The distance between the pie shop and where we are at now is too far to run it and be away,” he said.
But there’s still a chance the pies will continue to fry.
Though Kurtis is a franchisee of the original Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies store in Davis, Okla., and uses their secret recipes, he owns all of his equipment and has been authorized to sell the business. He said that he and the Arbuckle bosses are hoping that someone from Wichita will want to take the shop over and move it north.
“They’ve tried to get us to open one in Wichita,” he said. “They’ve really wanted one there.”
The Stolls opened their store three and a half years ago in the white roadside building, which sits alone between a field of corn and a field of soybeans. They’d been longtime fried pie fans who always bought some when they were in Davis. On the back of each pre-printed pie wrapper is a number to call if you want to open your own pie shop. One day, Kurtis called it, and a few days later, he was in the pie business.
Arbuckle Fried Pies are not what you get from McDonald’s or Hostess. They’re based on the franchise owner’s grandma’s recipe from the 1800s, and the crust is more like Indian fry bread than typical pie pastry. The pies are not glazed or sugared – just fried to perfection in peanut oil.
Customers can order the pies, which cost $2.99 apiece, stuffed with 22 different fillings, from fruit to custard to meat. The biggest sellers in Tonkawa are apple and cherry. In Davis, which sits 166 miles to the south on I-35, the apricot pies are the most coveted. Flavors like coconut, chocolate, peach, lemon, blackberry and pineapple also are available.
Though the Tonkawa shop is in a somewhat deserted location, hundreds of people drive past and see the fried pies billboards every day, Stoll said. On a typical day, he sells at least 300 pies.
Many of his customers are from the Wichita area, he said, and several will frequently make the one-hour drive south just to pick pies then drive back home.
Kurtis said his longtime fans are devastated that he’s closing. But he’s still hopeful that he’ll find a taker for the business.
“It’s an easy, simple low-cost business opportunity for someone to get into,” he said. “I think Wichita would be a prime location.”
From now through Aug. 27, the shop’s hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.