WORCESTER, MA — The dichotomy between icon and innovation is an interesting one, especially for bakers. Classic brands are steeped in nostalgia and enjoy a deeply loyal fan base. But tradition can take sales only so far. To remain relevant and profitable, bakeries must capture the attention of new generations that may have different tastes and behaviors, and that often requires strategic ideation.

Worcester, MA-based Table Talk Pies has purposefully positioned itself squarely in the middle of this dichotomy. While the iconic brand prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary later this year, it is also moving forward with a vision to grow beyond its traditionally pie-centric portfolio.

“People in the Northeast grew up eating mini Table Talk Pies in their lunchboxes,” said Isaac Long, the company’s president. “It’s a very nostalgic brand and item for people here, and we make our everyday pies really well. But for us to be successful, we’ve got to grow in a sustainable manner while making sure we don’t disrupt the core of the business, which is what we’re really about.”

That Table Talk Pies can focus on growth is a testament to its beloved status in New England. The bakery has had its share of struggles over the years, but it could be considered somewhat of a comeback kid.

Greek immigrants Theodore Tonna and Angelo Cotsidas started Table Talk Pies in 1924. They baked bread by day and hand-made pies by night, eventually growing the business to the point they pivoted to just pies. The pair operated the company until 1965 when they sold it to Beech-Nut. After changing hands many times, Table Talk went bankrupt in 1984 and closed its doors. It looked like the end of an era.


The brand may have been down, but it wasn’t out. The next year, Tonna’s son-in-law Christo Cocaine, who had worked closely with his father-in-law at the bakery for 20 years, bought the company out of bankruptcy and pumped new life into it. Harry Kokkinis, Cocaine’s son, eventually took the reins as the third-generation president and successfully led the company for 20 years.

Financial challenges reemerged in 2022, and Table Talk was once again on the brink of bankruptcy. A group of private investors with an appreciation of the company’s rich heritage stepped in. Long joined as a strategic advisor and was named president in June 2023, succeeding Kokkinis, who transitioned into the role of executive chair of the board.

“It was a couple of tough years for everyone who was working here, especially during the pandemic,” Long said. “There was a lot of pent-up energy for getting Table Talk back to the strength it had a few years before. With new investors backing the company and providing capital, we’ve been able to go after opportunities we see in front of us.”

Those opportunities include exploring untapped markets and distribution channels and ramping up R&D with the goal of expanding Table Talk product offerings beyond pies.

“[On day one], we started a five-year plan for the company,” Long shared. “We started thinking about where we wanted to go in the industry and what else was out there instead of just focusing on the orders we were making or how to get through the current pie season.”

“For us to be successful, we’ve got to grow in a sustainable manner while making sure we don’t disrupt the core of the business, which is what we’re really about.” — Isaac Long | president | Table Talk Pies


With three production facilities in Worcester — Bowditch, Southgate and Gardner, named after the streets on which they reside — Table Talk sells almost 300 million whole dessert pies
and mini snack pies each year in all 50 states, Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean nations.

It added a fourth production facility last year when it acquired then-bankrupt Patisserie Gaudet, a shuttered Canadian pie and tart manufacturer in the small town of Acton Vale, Quebec.

“We restarted production last fall,” Long said. “Right now, [the bakery] primarily serves major Canadian grocery chains. It has one line, which is our tenth production line. The reception has been pretty strong, and it’s helped us sell our mini pies in Canada because investing in a
Canadian business has been a helpful talking point. And it’s a town of about 7,000 people, so having jobs back in the area is certainly helpful as well.”

Of the three Worcester facilities, the 40,000-square-foot Bowditch Street facility on the Worcester-Shrewsbury border is the oldest. It opened in 2015 and runs two lines, one for single-crust dessert pies and one for 4-inch mini snack pies. It is also the dedicated bakery for pies containing potential allergens such as pecans.

Five miles away in Worcester proper is Southgate, a 50,000-square-foot facility built brand new in 2017. Its three production lines are dedicated to 4-inch mini snack pie production. Cold storage and internal logistics are housed next door, and a new warehouse is under construction close by.


Just two blocks away from Southgate is the 135,000-square-foot Gardner Street bakery, which opened in 2022. Here, production is dedicated to whole dessert pies ranging in size from 8 to 10 inches. On a typical day, three production lines create, bake, cool and freeze up to 150,000 pies per day. A fourth production line is slated to go online later this year.

“We make our own recipes for our dough formulas,” said Sydrick Speight, Table Talk’s production floor supervisor. “They have been in the family forever. People say it’s nothing to make a pie, but it takes a lot of work to make these pies. We make them from scratch, from the dough to the fillings. The pie line is our engine, and all the people making the dough and making the filling are our tires.”

To optimize efficiencies and output at the new bakery, Table Talk invested in a state-of-the-art, 90-foot, custom-built C.H. Babb tunnel oven, Italian dough mixers, CBF Bakery spiral coolers, JBT spiral freezers and a Syntegon cartoner system that forms the pie boxes.

“Before, we had box openers, box closers, people who put the pies in the boxes, and packers,” Speight said. “Now we only have a person who feeds boxes to the machine, a person who puts pies in the boxes and a person who steps in when help is needed. The positions rotate every two to three hours so one person doesn’t stay in the same spot for too long.”

This story has been adapted from the April | Q2 2024 issue of Commercial Baking. Read the full story in the digital edition here.