By FRED PACE
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — An annual event that brings thousands of people to Huntington began Tuesday, the first day of Strawberry Pie Week at Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti House.
A long line of customers started forming at the front entrance of Jim’s nearly half an hour before the restaurant at 920 5th Ave. even opened.
“I brought my daughter with me this time,” said Linda Miller, of Huntington. “I have been coming for decades, but this is her first time.”
“I just never had a chance to come, so I am really excited to try a piece of strawberry pie from Jim’s,” McMillian said.
Tyler Waugh, 21, of Huntington, said he wanted to bring his girlfriend to the annual event to be part of the tradition.
“This is her first time,” he said. “I wanted her to get a taste of the best strawberry pie in the world.”
Most customers said the wait times for a slice were between 15 and 30 minutes, but they expected it.
“When you have this many people, you know you’re going to have to wait a little bit, but they have been moving people in and out pretty fast,” Waugh said.
Jimmie Carder says she has seen thousands of pies go out the door of Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti House, which her father, Jim Tweel, opened in Huntington in 1938 and eventually passed on to her.
“We have been doing this for over 40 years,” Carder said. “We are not sure exactly when it started or why the tradition began, but it keeps growing each year.”
Strawberry Pie Week at Jim’s has always started the Tuesday after Mother’s Day, according to Carder.
Last year, Carder said, more than 10,700 slices of strawberry pie were served.
“That’s close to 2,000 pies,” she said.
When the week started, the popular downtown restaurant already had more than 2,000 pie shells in the freezer.
“That’s more than 300 flats of strawberries, each with roughly 200 strawberries, that will be used to make over 14,000 slices of pie over the five-day period this year,” she said.
The pies are sold by the slice, with a limit of two per customer.
“The sad part is that we used to be able to let people get as many slices as they wanted with no limits,” she said. “One time we had a large family that ate 48 slices in one week. But since Strawberry Pie Week has gone viral on social media we could no longer keep up with the very large crowds. We want to make sure everyone gets a chance to get a slice of strawberry pie.”
“If you come in and order a quart of spaghetti, you get two pieces of strawberry pie,” she said. “If you come in and just want pie, then you can get one piece.”
Carder said the key to success is early preparation and fresh strawberries.
“We work as a team and make about 200 strawberry pies each day,” she said.
Jim Johnson, of Columbus, Ohio, said he read about Jim’s Strawberry Pie Week online and had to come to see what all the fuss is about.
“I called in February to see when Strawberry Pie Week started this year and then made plans to be here the first day,” Johnson said. “The spaghetti is amazing, and so is the strawberry pie. It was worth the trip.”
Jim’s is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, but will close at 8 p.m. daily during Strawberry Pie Week.
See more from The Herald-Dispatch