Baking & Snack - May 2020 - 31

OPERATIONS
Tippin's Pies

comfort
Tippin's invests in automation to take its indulgent pies
from hometown favorite to household name.
by Joanie Spencer

M

Mark Boyer is always astonished when people tell him
they recently ate in a Tippin's restaurant. That's because
there's no such thing ... anymore.
In the Kansas City metro area (on both sides of the
Kansas-Missouri state line), Tippin's has long been
known - and loved - for its decadent pies. And although they were once served up in Tippin's Restaurant
and Pie Pantry locations throughout the Midwest and in
Dallas, that hasn't been the case for more than a decade.
"I will have people insist they ate at a Tippin's 'just the
other day,' " said Mr. Boyer, president of the Kansas City,
Kan.-based pie manufacturer. "We make a world-class
pie, and there's an emotional connection not just to the
brand but also the restaurant where many people grew
up eating them."
Over the course of three decades, Tippin's grew from
a local eatery to a regional foodservice chain. Then it
evolved into a wholesale operation supplying pies exclusively to an upscale Kansas City-area grocer. Now these
blue-ribbon baked foods can be found in supermarkets
as far east as the Carolinas, as far south as Houston and
west all the way to Phoenix, not to mention up into
Green Bay, Wisc.
Today, in a new facility that doubled the bakery's square
footage and will more than triple its capacity, Tippin's is
living a new stage in a journey that brings its signature
comfort and tradition into a modern automated process.

On the courthouse steps
When the Tippin's restaurants filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy and prepared to close in 2004, the pies were being
sold exclusively in Hen House Markets, owned and operated by Kansas City, Kan.-based Four B Corp.
When the end came, questions were aplenty about
what would become of not only the pies but also the

Tippin's teammates who made them. The answers came
quickly, thanks to Four B, which also operates three
other grocery chains in the Kansas City metro area.
The Tippin's name, products and teammates never
skipped a beat.
Four B Corp.'s immediate goal was simple: Maintain
the ability to sell Tippin's pies exclusively in its Hen
House stores. As it turned out, the way to achieve that
goal was to, simply, buy the company.
"We wanted to make sure we could keep selling the
pies; we wanted that signature item for our stores and
didn't want the competition to have it," recalled David
Ball, chief executive officer, Four B Corp. "So, we bought
it, right there on the courthouse steps."
At the time, Mr. Ball was president and his father,
Fred, was CEO.
It was a Friday when he and Mike Beal, chief financial
officer for Balls Food Stores (the entity of Four B that
operates Hen House, Price Chopper, Pay Less and Sun
Fresh) made their move.
Mr. Ball may have bought the bakery quickly, but he
didn't take it lightly.
"Our first priority was keeping the team intact and
plugging along with business as usual," he recalled.
That Monday, every Tippin's bakery teammate was
still on the payroll, and every Hen House order was being fulfilled. And Mr. Ball met with each person individually to offer assurance of a smooth transition.
"It was seamless," he said.
More than 15 years later, many of those teammates
- some of whom also worked in the restaurant - are
cranking out more pies than any of them ever dreamed
possible, and the parent company is now just one customer in almost 20 markets across the country.
It was a growth strategy that Mr. Ball didn't immedi-

As the business
has grown, Tippin's
invested in automation
to increase production
and efficiency.
©Ryan Alcantara / Sosland
Publishing Company

www.bakingbusiness.com / May 2020 Baking & Snack 31


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Baking & Snack - May 2020

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