Lisa Ludwinski '02 40 Under 40 Crain's Detroit

Author: 
Annalise Frank

Lisa Ludwinski's nationally recognized Detroit bakery, Sister Pie, is selling a new peanut butter-s'mores cookie that she concocted with a group of 8- to 13-year-olds.

This is the 4-year-old cafe's second year partnering with a nonprofit, after 2018 with Detroit Food Academy. For 2019 it chose Alternatives for Girls, which serves homeless and high-risk girls and young women.

Among an array of efforts, Sister Pie has held classes with Alternatives for Girls participants and led meetings where Ludwinski and other staff taught them about flavor development. They worked together on a cookie that the bakery is now selling for $5, with $4 per sale going back to AFG. They raised $1,672 as of late August.

Sister Pie spends time with young women in AFG amid its continued evolution.

Ludwinski, a James Beard Foundation award finalist, started the business in 2012 out of her parents' kitchen in Milford. She took entrepreneurship classes through what's now Build Institute, joined FoodLab, used a shared kitchen and then worked toward opening what is now Sister Pie's 950-square-foot shop at the corner of Kercheval Avenue and Parker Street in West Village. Fifty-thousand-dollar Hatch Detroit award in hand, Ludwinski, who has a degree in theater arts from Kalamazoo College, opened in 2015.

In the last couple of years, that corner has drawn another James Beard award nominee, butcher shop and restaurant Marrow; a planned $22.5 million mixed-use development; and other real estate investment. While recent spending can't be attributed solely to one shop's influence, Sister Pie is seen by some as a destination business that has helped anchor the area.

After the launch last fall of Ludwinski's cookbook, "Sister Pie: The Recipes and Stories of a Big-hearted Bakery in Detroit," she and her team are planning an expansion next year to a second, bigger location on Mack Avenue with a grocery section, breakfast-and-lunch cafe, classrooms and kitchen space. They sought community input on what to include there.

"We've always been pretty community-focused," Ludwinski said. "We were able to take (our) original location and be like, 'OK, now we're here, what can we do to make this place welcoming and warm and inclusive to our neighbors?' And so now (with the second location), we're saying, 'Let's take that one step further. How can we start the business with them in mind from the very beginning?'"

Photography by Jacob Lewkow for Crain's