26 Mar 2021

Small Business:

Five Questions with Sandra Basanti of Pie Shop DC

Pie Shop DC is the baby of Sandra Basanti, a self-described “typical latchkey kid/first generation Sudanese-American with immigrant parents that worked constantly.” This baby makes a mean pie and it’s also packed a punch with live music, which sadly had to stop when the pandemic hit. This hasn’t stopped Sandra from working fiercely to keep her store and her employees going. In between all of this, she’s managed to find time to support causes dear to her heart. Hope you enjoy five questions with Sandra– preferably while enjoying a slice of pie!

Sandra Basanti. Pie Shop DC won Best Music Venue at last year’s Wammies. Photo courtesy of Sandra Basanti

How did you develop your pie shop concept? How about the pie and live entertainment concept?

Back in the early 2000s I knew I wanted to open a pie shop in the District. I’m originally from the DC area and grew up going to shows here. Live music has always been a huge part of my life. I fell in love with H st and would frequent shows at Rock n Roll Hotel and The Red & The Black. In ‘09 I moved into 1339 H st NE and lived upstairs while building out the first floor. While I have always independently owned and operated the shop with the help of my husband, we were affiliated with the Dangerously Delicious brand/franchise. However, for a number of reasons, we have since moved on and fully rebranded last year as Pie Shop. We are excited to continue on as a 100% independent DC brand and business. And on April 3, we celebrate 11 years open on H street!

Can you tell me more about how the pandemic has affected your business? What has helped most? Has the pandemic brought anything good to your business?

The pandemic has made us scale back and get creative to keep our heads above water while keeping the safety of our team and guests as the top priority. We have not had the dining room open for over a year now, and the catering and lunchtime food truck business disappearing along with live music being shut down, all overnight, has been a big blow. The only thing that has kept us afloat is the dedication of our team and the support of our community. And we couldn’t be more grateful for that. While we have always been active within and have regularly supported our community from annual fundraisers to school donations to benefit shows etc., the added sense of community here in the District in general and on H st specifically during this past year, has been hugely heartwarming and motivating. Seeing DC show up for the local small businesses and having the community and camaraderie among the small businesses that we have here on H street, is so much of why I would never want to be doing this anywhere else.

Can you tell me more about working with Moechella/#DontMuteDC?

We began working with Long Live GoGo back in January and have been hosting their weekly Back To The GoGo Live livestreams. At the same time we had the idea of collaborating on a pie. They came up with The Moechella which was the first of our individual sized pies that we launched back in February, and it is quickly becoming one of our most popular savory pies. It’s a mumbo-marinated slow cooked pulled chicken pie. #DontMuteDC is a complex issue dealing with issues of gentrification, with the introduction, and now reintroduction, of the Amplified Noise Act which specifically targets street performers, and also ties into the Harmonious Living Act which deals with adding requirements for new developments in commercial areas to be built with proper soundproofing, among other things. Yaddiya, Kelsye and the whole crew are incredibly organized and motivated. Long Live GoGo’s group of creatives and activists have been and continue to advocate and shed light on very important local issues here in the District. I have a huge amount of respect for their hard work and dedication.

What are some of the acts you’d like to host at the Pie Shop when we’re all vaccinated and the shop is open again?

Oh my goodness. The list is too long!

What’s the one pie you’ll never get tired of making or eating? When you’re not eating pie, what do you love to eat? Around the Hill/H Street area? Citywide?

I never get tired of eating the Samoa Cookie Pie. My H street go-to is The Queen Vic. My favorite Hill restaurant was Montmartre (RIP). When I make the trek west, I hit up Slash Run.

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