“I really wanted to make pies, proper Southland cuisine"
Like most good things, Fat Bastard Pies was founded in a back-street fish & chip shop in the suburbs of Invercargill. The year was 2016 and James Owen, a qualified chef with experience in some of Queenstowns top restaurants, wanted to make pies.
James' diversion into fast food began when he opened the fish and chip shop, Salt and Batter after moving home to Invercargill. With an underlying desire to create amazing pies, James thought he could sell gourmet fish and chips and have his chef’s quality pies on the side.
“After two or three months the fish and chip shop took off…On a Friday night you couldn’t even get a park. It was phenomenally busy.”
As Salt and Batter grew, 13 staff and flat out, James started to wonder how he was ever going to make his pies. He took over an adjoining shop and set up the pie business there with the help of a business partner. “I’d always wanted to make pies but it was hard to concentrate with Salt and Batter getting so busy”. In the end James decided to sell the fish and chip shop and move the pie trade into town on Tay street where it is located today.
"Moving into the big smoke"
The bakery has become its own local institution, with lines of people out the door. Today 60 percent of the pie trade is local and 40 percent are tourists. Locals regularly stop in for a pie and tourists are actually making the shop a destination point in their travels.
“Invercargill doesn’t have a lot of iconic brands for tourists to go to. There’s a few, but there’s not much in iconic food outlets. The concept fits well with things people would expect in a Southland town"
"Something a bit different, a bit unique.”
Once the bakery moved into town James contracted his cousin Simon, who was studying marketing, to push the brand further. Together the two grew an audience of enthusiastic pie lovers through social media with constant content and humorous promotions.
"Our biggest marketing push was when we ran a competition to fly one fat bastard from Christchurch to Invercargill just for a pie. That one ended up in the NZ herald and stuff.co.nz"
"Another big year ahead"
As popularity continues to grow, James and Simon hope to launch an online pie club where fat bastards around the country can sign up and get pies delivered to their door once a month.
"It's a big undertaking, we're taking our time setting it up so that everything works properly for the launch. Watch this space."