Local soul food favorite Sweetie Pie’s has gone nationwide. Owner Robbie Montgomery, her son and business partner, Tim Norman, his fiance, Jenae Wallick, and a cast of employees, friends and family members are featured in a new reality series called Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.
The series premiered Oct. 15, but St. Louis fans and friends got a sneak peek at a special screening at BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soups, where guests also were treated to a selection of Sweetie Pie’s down-home favorites like fried chicken and mac ‘n cheese.
The mother-son team had been looking to make a series based on their business for a while, Norman says. “They have a lot of cooking shows on TV, but you never see the inner-workings of a restaurant like ours. We have customers who come in just to see me and my mom argue back and forth with each other.”
Norman shopped the idea around to the film departments of several area colleges, but didn’t get any interest. He then connected with local production company Coolfire Media, who took the concept and partnered with Los Angeles-based Pilgrim Productions and pitched the series to OWN. It took less than two months from the initial contact until the time the series was approved. “I’ve heard of TV shows sitting on the shelf for years at a time,” Norman says. “This was fast.”
The show revolves around Montgomery and her family running their business, as well as their personal trials and tribulations. “We show what it takes to run a restaurant,” Montgomery says. “We don’t have degrees in business, we just learned from experience. You see everything that happens behind the scenes before we open each day. We argue, fight, fuss, cuss, but at 11:30, the doors open and we’re a family.”
Montgomery says the cameras followed them around for six months, from 6:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. “After a while we got used to not looking at the cameras, but we never forgot they were there.”
“It’s really based on family, the way we work together, our lives outside the restaurant, and also on the opening of the new restaurant,” Wallick says of the show.
The new restaurant, called Sweetie Pie’s Upper Crust, is scheduled to open in January in the Grand Center area, and will have basically the same menu as the other two Sweetie Pie’s, but a lot more space.
With a third Sweetie Pie’s about to open, will there be more to come? “We’re pretty busy right now, but we’ll see what ends up happening,” says Wallick.
As far as the series, the first season of eight episodes is in the can, and Wallick says they’ve been told that they should know if there will be a Season 2 by the time the second or third episode airs. So, is the family ready for a second round?
“Oh yeah,” says Norman. “Let’s go!”