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From cooking pies to baking on the beach

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They’ll soon go from cooking up their famous pies to baking on a beach.

After 20 years in business, Jim and Maureen McKeown — owners of Molly’s Meat Pies at 390 Provencher Blvd. — are selling up and retiring to Jamaica.

The new owners are Ki Yong Park and Claudia Kang — a South Korean couple who immigrated to Winnipeg in August. They officially take the reins on Dec. 1.

And while the couple will not miss some aspects of the business — including a gruelling 80-hour work week — saying goodbye to the community will be tough.

"It’s time to go. It’s time for new blood. The time just felt right," Molly said. "It’s physically very demanding work and the body can’t take it anyone. We’re retiring to Jamaica and sitting on a beach."

"One of the best things has been getting to meet all the people. You develop relationships and we’ve got to know a lot of our customers personally. We’re going to miss the customers we have. It’s been a personal thing over the years. Many customers are more like friends."

Originally from Northern Ireland, Molly worked at her brother’s bakery, while Jim has a background in electronics. After immigrating to Winnipeg, they eventually set up the business in 1992, moving from their original St. Norbert site to the current location to be closer to their Windsor Park home.

During this time, the couple has developed a popular business that boasts a customer base across the city, province and even the U.S.

Their hot-selling favourites include tourtière, steak and kidney pie, chicken pie, Scotch pies, Cornish pasties and Scottish shortbread, but the mouth-watering list goes on.

Jim said an important aspect of the sale to Park and Kang was an agreement by all parties to keep the fundamentals of the business the same.

"We made it quite clear we don’t want to change anything, which is very important to us — and them," Jim said, noting the couple’s recipes are based on Irish recipes that have been adapted to suit North American tastes.

"The locals like things spicier, but the common goal is quality," Jim said.

During their two decades in the business, Jim and Maureen have also noted some interesting North American eating patterns.

"We actually geared our production schedule for steak and kidney pies around full moon or a new moon. We’d noticed we’d double our demand at these times and couldn’t work it until we realized it must be primal thing inside human beings to crave organ meat at these times," Jim said.

Like Maureen, Jim will miss the camaraderie the most.

"We will miss the customers and thank them for their loyalty over the past 20 years," he said.

"Being in touch with these people is what I’ll miss the most. But I won’t miss working or the snow."

The McKeowns’ last day at work will be Dec. 7. They leave for Jamaica the next day.

For more information, visit www.mollysmeatpies.com.

Read about Ki Yong Park and Claudia Kang’s hopes for the business in the Lance in the coming weeks.

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