Christine Kinsman’s commercial kitchen is nestled in a sleepy, tree-lined neighborhood in Vineyard Haven. Through the kitchen’s glass door and windows, pine trees, blue sky and a fence are visible. There is also a wooden shed which holds four large freezers and one giant walk-in refrigerator.

Chrissy, as everyone calls her, is the founder and owner of Pie Chicks. And pies, it turns out, need a lot of refrigeration. In her kitchen there are two more freezers and a reach-in refrigerator.

“Pastry wants to be cold,” she says. “You cannot make pastry in a hot kitchen. In the winter, I have pastry-making days and baking days. In the summer we make pastry in the early morning with the A.C. cranked and then bake in the afternoon.”

She brushes a milk wash over her blueberry pies and slides them into the oven. “In the summer, people really like mixed fruit pies, mixed berry pies, strawberry rhubarb, any kind of fruit combination, but in the winter, people are more inclined to have a single fruit pie.”

During the summer Chrissy and her crew bake and sell over 100 pies a day, seven days a week. The demand slows in the off-season, especially after the holiday rush.

Winter storms bring out a desire for pie, says Ms. Kinsman. — Alison L. Mead

“No one buys pie in January. Well, maybe not no one. There are a few. And I bake two days a week for them.”

Storms can also increase demand. “It’s one of the things people seem to include when they know they might be stuck for a few days: water, candles, maybe food for a stew and pie.”

Though Pie Chicks is plural in name, Chrissy is currently the only pie chick. Her kitchen manager, Raquel Ferrera, recently moved off-Island and she will not have enough business to hire a new crew until March. And although she is busy now with holiday orders, she is looking forward to a rest.

“I love January! I need January. I need to do yoga every day and let my body rest,” she says. “My whole body gets twisted and so tight from rolling, lifting and carrying. And the heat in the summer. Our thermometer in here only goes up to 99, but I’d guess that it gets to be about 104 degrees in the kitchen. There are days when my clothes are completely soaked in sweat. When I am interviewing people I always ask them if they can carry 50 pounds and if they think they can stand for 8 to 12 hours in high heat. It’s like being in the Army.”

Chrissy decorates each cherry crumb with a few snowmen that she snaps out of some pastry dough and then slips the pies into the oven. As she opens the oven door, a heavenly smell of all the pies — blueberry, apple-peach and pecan — wafts out. She takes a few graham cracker pie shells out to cool and then fetches some sour cream from the reach-in. She begins to make key lime pies, which she says consistently sell out.

“Pie is unlike any other food. It’s a food that everyone gathers around. You share pie. You have memories about sharing pie. The memory of older people feeding you who loved you. There is a natural built-in nostalgia to pie. And whatever kind of pie that was, is, or might be, your flavor pie is often because of that particular pie memory or moment.”

She continues: “I’m from the Midwest. If someone comes over with pie, you don’t put it aside for later or another time, you stop whatever you are doing and sit down and eat it with them. It is always the right time to eat pie. My grandmother, my dad’s mom, was not a warm and fuzzy person. She had a hard life, but she was smart. She knew stuff. She had 11 children. There were always biscuits and pie at her house. She knew that flour and fat were a sustainable food. A way to stretch ingredients and feed 11 children. My dad made a peach pie with a lard crust. My dad’s mom taught my mom how to make pie. And my mom taught me. I thought pie crusts were magic. How could butter, shortening and flour become that amazing tender thing?”

Pie Chicks pies are available all over the Island. — Alison L. Mead

All this said, Chrissy did not set out in life to make pie. She was born in Avon Lake, Ohio, and went to Ohio State University, majoring in finance. From there she had what she called a “pantyhose business” job for two years.

“It was horrible. I was trying to be whatever I thought I was supposed to be doing.”

In 1999, she quit “working under fluorescent lights” and went to Ohio’s National Institute of Massotherapy. After graduation she moved to Martha’s Vineyard where Island massage thera

pist Sharon Strimling had offered her a position for the summer.

“Sharon is a big part of my life story. She hired me. She put me up. I think I’ve lived with her three or four times since I’ve been here. I also worked as a baker and bookkeeper for Sharon’s family at the Shiretown Inn. And later, she introduced me to my husband Drew.”

She remembers: “I was having breakfast with Sharon at Linda Jean’s and this barrel of a guy comes striding in, swinging his arms and I thought, what is going on? Why is this guy coming over here to talk to us?”

Drew, who is a finish carpenter on the Island, was friends with Sharon’s then-husband Mick. He sat down and joined them for breakfast.

“We hit it off right away,” Chrissy says. “Our first date was a birthday party. He showed up with chocolate and flowers. They were irises. I was impressed.”

They married in September of 2007 in the Friendship Garden at the Farm Institute and spent their honeymoon at a friend’s house on Chappaquiddick where they picked grapes and made jam.

Hitting the road with some tasty stuff. — Alison L. Mead

“We had so much fun that even when it was time for us to go back to work, we stayed for an extra week and commuted,” she recalls.

Chrissy brings her attention back to the work at hand and points out how the citrus in the key lime pie pulls the dairy together. Then her pie baking sixth sense (she never times anything and tells her staff to take them out “when they are done”), tells her the pecan pies are ready. Looking around the tiny space, it is hard to imagine that five or six people work here in the summer. One wall has a chest freezer sandwiched next to the oven, which abuts a small corner work space with a large crock of whisks and

spoons. Another wall subsists of clean up. There’s a small sink, which is the hand washing station and much larger commercial sink dedicated to clean up and accommodating large trays. A third wall is a long counter, which has spices, notes, and today serves as the pie prep and boxing station. The other wall has a small rack of stainless steel bowls and supplies.

“I got so much of this stuff from Gates Rickard. He was really generous,” she says.

There are maybe two and a half feet between the outer walls and the central counter. But what keeps the space from feeling cramped and possibly claustrophobic are all Chrissy’s notes to herself and her staff, which are written either in a rainbow of colored markers on parchment paper and taped to the wall or written directly onto the wall. The mantra, Om Mane Padme Om, is written on the wall over the hand washing sink. And over the pie making/boxing counter, it says: “Whatever you bless multiplies.”

This echoes her company’s mission, “To save the world one pie at a time.” On her company’s website and here in her kitchen, she explains that she is not kidding about this. She believes in the power of pie and the joy that it can bring. “This is my way of bringing happiness to the world. This is my art. My expression. My service. I want my pies to bring joy to the world.”

She tells another part of her Vineyard story.

“At some point early on in living here I went out to the Bodhi Path. I was suffering from severe depression and was looking for anything that might help. I didn’t know what to do. My first time was awkward. I went into the house and sat with people I didn’t know, but I met the Llama who asked me questions and seemed to take a genuine interest in me. It didn’t feel forced. He gave me a prayer book and told me to come back and I just started going and practicing and it just clicked. My depression lifted a few months later. And I kept going. When I meditate, I feel better.”

She continues: “Anyway, when I talked to a Dharma teacher Tsony, who happened to be visiting the Island and the Bodhi Path, about starting a pie business, he said, ‘Imagine the positive effects. People sitting and eating pie with their families and laughing. Think of people having love and happiness. Think happy thoughts and transfer it into your food. Put love in your food.’”

“And I do!” she exclaims. “But this whole business really started because I was complaining to my husband that I just wanted to bake.”

At the time, she was working as the business manager for the Farm Institute in Katama, but was tired of spread sheets, plus she had been there seven years. Her husband is friends with Bob Skydell, of Fiddlehead Farm, who was looking for pies to sell.

“So Drew came home the very next day and said, ‘Okay, so you’ll make pies for Bob next summer.’

“Three months of planning and then I had a pie business. So that is the practical way that this whole business really happened.”

She doesn’t follow anyone else’s recipes — except for the chocolate-covered macaroons, which are in her holiday cookie grab-bag. They are made using Judy Roger’s recipe from the Shiretown Inn. She says she tweaks things until she is happy with the results. And can consistently replicate them.

“You can sell one pie, but will they come back for the second one and the third?”

She is also looking for alternatives to using palm shortening in her crust. The deforestation of tropical palm trees is depleting the natural food supply for orangutans, Sumatran rhinos and Sumatran elephants.

“I’m going to try coconut oil and a few other things and see what I can come up with. Right action is very important to me,” she says.

After all the pies come out of the oven, Chrissy packs up her Pie Chicks Volvo and drives the warm pies to Cronig’s. Pie Chicks pies are sold all over the Island, depending on the season, including the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market, Cronig’s, Tony’s, Edgartown Meat and Fish, Ghost Island Farm, Katama General Store, Rosewater, The Chilmark Store and 7a.

Before driving away, Chrissy continues talking about her desire to connect with people through pie.

“I don’t want to hear that someone enjoyed my pie secondhand. It’s just not the same. I want to look them in the eyes and see and hear about their experience directly. One of my favorite stories from a customer was a woman who told me that she had bought a pie on a really hot day and had eaten the whole thing while lying naked in bed.”

She beams. “That’s pretty decadent and pretty darn good.”