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grayseas pies: sweet passion turned successful business

Gracie Santos Guce didn’t plan to turn her love of making pies into a business. It just happened.

Gracie Santos Guce making pies.

“It was an accident. People call me an accidental entrepreneur. Before the pandemic, I don’t think I ever baked a pie in my life,” says Guce, owner of grayseas pies. One day, she decided to try making a strawberry rhubarb pie.

“Then I thought, I could make other pies. This could be a fun project,” she says.

Baking pies started as a way to utilize time during the stay-at-home order. Word of her pies grew as Guce participated in a meal exchange with family and friends.

“All of a sudden there was a demand. Then Thanksgiving rolled around, and everybody wanted a pie,” she says. “So here I am, three years later, still making pies.”

The project turned into a business when her friend, who owned Dough Baby, asked her to come to a pop-up event. Guce made ten pies. She sold them all in 15 minutes. 

“That’s when I realized there’s a demand here,” she explains. “I think I can turn this into a business, even though that wasn’t the reason I started baking.”

Guce continued to grow her business through pop-ups. She was one of the first Seattle Restored participants with a residency at Cone & Steiner. Seattle Restored fills empty storefronts with pop-up shops, events, and art installations to bring a unique retail experience to Downtown.

“Seattle Restored aims to minimize the up-front investment and risk small business owners take to test their product in the market, learn at a lower cost, and offer a longer runway to success. This program provides small business owners with access to new markets and targeted support to grow and potentially locate in a brick and mortar space,” says Jenn Charoni, OED community development specialist.

For Guce, it was a way to grow her customer base and grow her business.

“We got a lot more eyes on the pies. There were people walking past who would not normally know of grayseas pies. It was a good way to increase my visibility and my brand awareness,” says Guce.

Guce estimates she spends about 15 hours a week making pies. She doesn’t mind the extra hours on top of her day job, saying baking is therapeutic for her. Guce also loves getting to use her business as a way of sharing Filipino flavors with the world.

“I don’t see a lot of Filipino flavors in pies,” she says. “The fact that I can use the pie as a conduit for Filipino flavors, I think that’s what makes grayseas pies so special.”

Guce has participated in the program as a pop up a couple of times and continues to work with Seattle Restored as a vendor at various events. She says the experience has helped her learn about what it takes to own a storefront.

Guce rolls out pie crust.

“There was an expectation that I had to bake a certain number of pies every time I was there,” she explains. “I don’t see myself having a brick and mortar any time soon, but it was nice to have a glimpse into what it might be like as a small business owner.”

For now, Guce is happy to run her business as a side project. She works full-time as a community outreach specialist for Seattle Good Business Network during the day and makes pies at night and on weekends. Since she doesn’t have her own store, Guce uses what she calls her “commissary kitchen” at her friend’s bakery, Simply Desserts in Fremont.

The business is expanding, too. Guce now has someone to help her make the pie dough and an assistant that helps with the baking and tabling for different events. She’s finding more and more events and even started selling her pies at Sounders matches. “I really want to see more and more Filipino flavors,” she says. Her goal is to keep her business alive and thriving. She even wants to pass the business down to her children. But for now, Guce is going to stay focused on doing what she loves, making pies.

“Each pie is made with love,” she says. “I know everyone says that, but it’s true! I really do put a lot of love in my pies.”

Seattle Restored is a partnership between the Seattle Office of Economic Development, Seattle Good Business Network, and Shunpike. The program matches small business owners and artists with vacant commercial storefronts to host pop-up shops and art installations. These shops and installations benefit neighborhoods, small businesses, artists, and property owners by creating vibrant and engaging streetscapes that encourage people to visit Downtown Seattle and other commercial corridors.

Seattle Restored is fulfilling Mayor Harrell’s Downtown Activation Plan by creating a unique Downtown retail experience and making Downtown a top destination for Seattleites and visitors year-round.