RICHMOND, Va. — As the name and face of Joyebells Sweet Potato Pies, Joye B. Moore's smile is infectious. But there is pain behind the sixth-generation baker's big grin and loud laugh.
Before moving to Virginia, Moore grew up in North Carolina and Texas where she lived with an abusive stepparent and a mother with severe mental health challenges, she shared on the Eat It, Virginia podcast.
"My mother was undiagnosed with mental illness, that the family, just due to cultural reasons, was not aware of," she said. "So at some point, we ended up living with my second great-grandmother."
It was there, in her grandparents' gardens and kitchens, Moore learned about the importance of good food and family.
"I know they are proud of us. We are walking talking manifestations of all of their prayers heard," she said.
Moore is talking about what she and her family have been able to do with Joyebells.
Moore and her family started making pies after she lost her job at a nonprofit in 2019.
Moore started by selling just five pies a week at the Dairy Bar in Scott’s Addition, to making 10 pies a week for that restaurant. She then jumped production to between 100 and 200 pies a week for other local stores before Food Lion took notice. Production then jumped to 1,800 pies a month to meet the demand for area retailers.
It now has shelf space at all 1,100-plus locations in Food Lion’s 10-state footprint. It’s also grown into all 600 Sam’s Club stores nationwide.
“We look at each other and can’t believe it. Pies, pies did this. It’s surreal,” Moore said in an interview with the Associated Press. “I’m most proud of my family, all of us coming together, all of us coming together to elevate our historical family trajectory.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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