Horizon West resident opens cottage pie business

Will Lenhart opened recently Signature Bakehouse, a cottage pie business out of his home in Horizon West.


Will Lenhart, Nicholas Chapman and their son McKinley Chapman love frequenting Walt Disney World.
Will Lenhart, Nicholas Chapman and their son McKinley Chapman love frequenting Walt Disney World.
Courtesy photo
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When everything else in life failed, pie was Will Lenhart’s constant. 

Throughout the challenges in his life, the art of baking has helped him overcome even the toughest of obstacles. 

Now, the 39-year-old Horizon West resident is using pie to not only shape a new chapter in his life, but to encourage others to reach for their dreams as well.

PIE PURSUIT

Lenhart’s journey began in the humble town of York, Pennsylvania. 

Although baking always has been in his life — his uncle owned a bakery when he was growing up, and he baked with his grandparents — the first time he got into making pies was with the mother of one of his high school friends, Cathy Sharp.

“In high school, it was like any other typical experience as a gay adolescent trying to find their way in the world,” he said. “She was a friendly face down the street who took me under her wing. She taught me that you can have pie fundraisers and make money. She was doing a pie fundraiser, and I had the pleasure of being there. I helped her, and I watched her make these pies, and it was pretty awesome.”

At 16, Lenhart spent his time bussing tables and working in restaurants while attending school. Whenever he needed money, he started to turn to pies. 

After high school, Lenhart pursued culinary school. He obtained his associate’s degree in culinary arts and started his bachelor’s degree, but halfway through his first semester, he decided it was not for him. 

For a while, Lenhart worked managing and opening Irish pubs in Pennsylvania. But one night in 2009, he had a premonition to move to Ireland. He decided to have a major pie sale to finance the journey, and three weeks later, he was on a one-way flight to the new country. 

By 2011, Lenhart returned to his hometown, and he was back to waiting tables in local restaurants. 

When the opportunity arose to open his own pie shop in York Central Market House, one of the oldest farmers markets, in April 2011, he coined his new stand The Pie Shop. 

THE FLORIDA PLAN

The same year the first pie shop opened, Lenhart met his husband, Nicholas Chapman.

The couple came to Central Florida for the first time in 2011 for a trip to Walt Disney World. They instantly fell in love with the parks and the area.

The two began to frequently make the trip down to Disney as consistently as every four to eight weeks for a number of years.

After selling the pie shop and considering a move to California, the couple decided to stay in Pennsylvania and focus on building a family instead.

The couple welcomed their son, McKinley Chapman, in August 2018.

Although Lenhart was working for a technology company at the time, he decided to become a stay-at-home dad in October 2019.

“It didn’t make sense to spend all this time and energy to create our son, to only then put him in a daycare facility and just have somebody else have the moments that we wanted to share with him,” he said.

That’s when the family came up with what they called “The Florida Plan,” named after Disney’s Florida plan. 

“There were some major concerns,” Lenhart said. “We wondered what would happen if we couldn’t get jobs. We were moving right in the middle of the pandemic. We had no social network here. … Florida is Florida, and we are gay, and we have a son, and some people don’t agree with that. We were really concerned about how our family was going to be approached here in this small community …But my husband and I have built a solid foundation, and it’s pretty amazing. It worked. Nick and I came from nothing, and everything we have is because of work and determination. We want better than what we were given.”

After moving to Orlando in 2020, the family found their new home in the Independence community. 

“This is the first time my husband and I have lived in this weird type of community,” Lenhart said. “I say weird, but what I mean is the uncommon feeling of knowing your neighbors and having them be so close. There’s more of a sense of community here, and we’ve developed friendly faces, acquaintances and friends. We love our child to be able to have that. Independence is so cultured and diverse in the fact that we have all social and economic climates here that he can learn from.”

About a year ago, Lenhart decided he wanted to start selling pies and built Signature Bakehouse out of his home from scratch. 

Although life got busy and the pie business fell to the back burner, it wasn’t long before pie made its appearance again.

The family took their first cruise in Thanksgiving 2022, a Disney cruise, and became obsessed with the experience.

“Then, my kid is like, ‘Hey, I want to go on another cruise,’” Lenhart said. “And I said, ‘This is great, I do too, but your dad is never going to let us spend anymore money.’ He said, ‘Well let’s make money. Let’s sell pies.’

“And that’s really what kick started it all,” he said. “McKinley is a fiercely independent, strong willed ambassador of courage. I’ve never had someone hold me more accountable than a 5-year-old.”

SIGNATURE BAKEHOUSE

The business already is making an impact on the local community.

Signature Bakehouse hosted its first sale on National Pie Day, Jan. 23.

Lenhart and his son put together a free pie giveaway at Independence Community Park after school. Lenhart made 25 pies, cut them up into little slices and gave the pieces away. 

“It was really cool,” Lenhart said. “It was cool to see him (McKinley) and his friends there giving away pie. It allowed us to have a presence within the community and to give back a nice little sweet treat.”

With his cottage bakehouse license, Lenhart is currently limited to only fruit and nut pies. 

However, his offerings are extensive with seasonal pies and flavors using regional produce including pecan, chocolate bourbon pecan, cherry, blueberry, strawberry rhubarb, blackberry, raspberry, gluten free and even a shoofly pie that pays tribute to Lenhart’s hometown as well as his Dutch upbringing. 

Another one of Lenhart’s staples is his classic apple pie.

The double-crusted apple pie focuses on accenting a strong apple flavor, similar to Snapple Apple, with no cinnamon using a Stayman Winesap apple. The apple, which is much like a heritage apple, is not typically grown in major orchards and is most popular in the Washington State area and central Pennsylvania. Lenhart said the apple is perfect because it’s beautifully sweet but also has the starch to hold up in cooking so it does not turn to mush. 

His family, who loves to visit Florida, brings the fresh fruits from central Pennsylvania frequently. 

Lenhart’s most recent business adventure is his addition to the Windermere Farmers Market. His first time selling was with his son Friday, Feb. 3.

In the future, in addition to doing pop-up pie shops and offering cream and meat pies, Lenhart said his main objective is to start a nonprofit centered around pie.

Lenhart said his life would not have been the same without his passion for baking.

“I saw the benefit of pie,” he said. “It taught me finances, it taught me business, it gave me life experiences. The math behind pie led me to sell pie to make money to better myself and find my dreams. Dreams take work, and it would be nice to allow other people to be able to financially support their own dreams.”

 

author

Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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