Q&A: Joanna Wilson steps out of her home kitchen to open Punkin’s Pies

(IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

Joanna Wilson opened Punkin’s Pies Sweet Treats this summer in a hot pink shipping container at The AMP at 16 Tech after spending years making pies and special treats from her own kitchen.

Her treats include chocolate-dipped strawberries, chocolate-dipped pineapple slices, turtles and more.

How long have you been baking and making sweet treats?

I started out with pies—actually sweet potato pies from my mom’s recipe that she would make for holidays and different functions. She would make 20-something pies for us for Thanksgiving. … Finally, I mastered it. And she got older, so I started you know making more and started selling them. People loved her pies.

But the other sweet treats, I just started those maybe three years ago. Me and my daughter did some white chocolate strawberries … and I took a picture. … We posted them and somebody else saw it and was like, “Oh my God, can you make me some?” That’s how it started.

How did you come up with the name “Punkin’s”?

My brother named me Punkin when I was a baby. So I’ve been called that my whole life. … Nobody calls me Joanna.

How do you come up with the ideas for your sweet treats?

The other items came about as people messaging me when they saw those white strawberries. Then I started doing some milk chocolate ones, of course. But strawberries were first, and people just started asking me, “Can you make this for me?” That’s where the rest of this stuff comes from. They thought I could do anything.

What’s your favorite treat on the menu?

Probably the stuffed cheesecake strawberries. Between that and the white chocolate turtles. Those are my favorite. Crowd-pleasers are definitely the turtles and cheesecake fruit bowls. People love those.

Everybody loves the bling berries. Every day, someone asks if they’re edible.

Why did you decide to make the leap from your kitchen to The AMP?

One of my customers … I give her credit anytime I talk about coming here. She messaged me and said, “Hey, Joanna, I think this place that is opening up will be a good opportunity for you.” … She gave me Craig Baker’s email address and so me and him started messaging each other and—voila!—Punkin’s Pies came.

It was intimidating and I got really scared and nervous. One day, I told my husband, “I don’t want to do it.” And he said, “You’re gonna do it. We’ve come too far.”

He was definitely a motivator for me and pushed me.

Have you been happy you decided to do this?

Definitely. I’m very happy that I stepped out there and tried it. You know, I kept telling myself, “I won’t know unless I try,” because I was scared of failing. … It’s definitely been rewarding for me.

You started selling pies 10 years ago. Before that, did you ever envision this is what you’d be doing?

No. Me and my sister-in-law, we used to play around—she used to make cake and I made pies—and we’d say, “Maybe one day we’ll have a business called Sweet Tooth or something like that.” This vision just came maybe five or six years ago. … I was just taking over for what my mom was doing, that’s all.

I know you want to add pie to the menu eventually. Will your offerings grow beyond that?

Oh yeah. I’m looking at dipped ice cream or gelato.•

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