Persimmon Hill Farm and Bakery's "Pi Day" Smash

Persimmon Hill Farm and Bakery's "Pi Day" Smash
Bill and Shonna Richardson in the bakery

It has been said to "beware the Ides of March," especially if you're heading into the Roman Senate. But for Bill and Shonna Richardson, the owners of Persimmon Hill Farm and Bakery at 502 S Husband, March 14th brought an overwhelming flood of pie-hungry customers, a welcome albeit stressful situation.

The concept for baking special pies for March 14th came as their daughter, Jennifer, a math teacher at the University of Central Oklahoma, suggested to Shonna Richardson they do something special for Pi-day. They ran with the idea and posted on social media that they would sell slices of eight different pies for $3.14 each. Customers were invited to come early, and come early they did. They opened at 7 AM and by 7:15 AM their original eight pies were sold out.

The Eight Original Pies, Image courtesy of Persimmon Hill and Farm's Facebook Page

"I told Shonna to keep baking more pies," said Bill. By 9:05 AM that morning they had already sold more baked goods than an ordinary 10-hour business day. When all was said and done, they baked somewhere between 40-45 pies, feeding a hungry mass of pie lovers.

When asked about bestsellers, Bill said, "Pecan, Blueberry, Blackberry, Coconut Creme, Lemon Meringue…after a while we lost track."

Such a turnout is a testament to Stillwater's growing appreciation for the food Bill and Shonna work hard to create.

Persimmon Hill Farm and Bakery has been at its current location for a little over four months. When I went to speak with Bill, nine patrons were in line ahead of me, frequent customers who knew Bill by name. One customer remarked to Shonna over the counter, "I just wanted to say I haven't had a bad day here. And your opera cake is deadly!"

Their journey started over 20 years ago on a farm just east of Stillwater. In 2001, Bill and Shonna began raising and selling vegetables while maintaining their jobs in the technical and corporate world. By 2004, they decided Shonna would stay home to raise their fourth child, Abby. Shonna's attention soon gravitated towards baking bread. It wasn't long before the entire family joined in and they were selling their bread. It was a hit, so they continued to grow their baked offerings.

In 2019, they opened a new kitchen with a retail front on their farm. Then the COVID pandemic hit. "That kind of killed that whole idea. Plus we were two miles on country road, seven miles outside of town. So a lot of people didn't want to drive down dusty country roads," said Bill.

So they brought their food into the city and set up shop under a market tent across the street from Mazzio's on 6th Ave. They continued to grow to the point where Bill could retire from off-farm work, and in September of 2022, they opened on 131 South Main Street.

It was only a short time before they outgrew it. "It was a thousand square foot building. But everything, all the baking, all the creating, all the production was on the farm and the kitchen. And then I was running one to three to five trips a day bringing goods back and forth. And we were just wearing ourselves out," said Bill.

Bill and Shonna took control of their current building that housed the old Thai Cafe in July of 2023. They spent three and a half months cleaning and refurbishing. "We got to the point one day where I was finished with all the painting, but I wasn't finished with all the cleaning. But I told Shonna, we gotta have revenue coming in. And so we just picked November 3rd and we opened and we started selling about a third of the products that you see right now."

The Richardsons recently rolled out their breakfast and lunch sandwich line and are working on refining operations further. They have big plans for the future, including opening the drive-thru for morning coffee, breakfast and lunch items.

Corned Beef Sandwich in honor of St. Patrick's day, Image courtesy of Persimmon Hill Farm and Bakery's Facebook Page

Keep in mind they still have an 80-acre farm they are managing! But, "We will not lose that connection to the farm," says Bill. "That's what a lot of people want. This would have had a hard time going before [COVID]. But the one thing that Shonna and I have learned is that since then, people have asked three major questions. Number one, who's making my food? Two, what are they putting in my food? And number three, we want a relationship with the people that are making our food [sic]."

"We will not lose [the] connection to the farm."

The Richardsons have answers to those questions and wants. About 95% of their products are made in Oklahoma (M.I.O.). All their wheat comes from Shawnee Milling, which is grown just west of Enid. "Mr. Ford, the grandson of that company...he gets tickled because every now and again, well, about every three months I go down and pick up three tons on my three quarter ton pickup with three-axle trailer in amongst all those semis that are taking that all over the United States of America. And here I am backed in there, and they're loading me up with all the sacks and everything."

They take customer concerns over what goes into their food seriously. 

"We're sustainable. And we're local. And we tell people what we do, and we do what we tell people. And we're never going to have a product here that you cannot pronounce the ingredients that's within that product." – Bill Richardson

Bill has been a farmer all his life. "Between my dad, my brothers, Shonna, and I and our family, we farmed around 1000 acres North Prairie Oklahoma … over about a six-square-mile area, and we do better with the tertiary product—the flour—than we did with the main product, the crop wheat, with that many acres. That's a sad testament to wheat farming.

"Love that life. We went broke in that life in 1987. Had to sell the farm, had to sell everything. You don't forget those kinds of lessons," Bill said.

Their sign outside the bakery at 504 S Husband

When I asked him if he ever thought he would own a bakery, he replied, "No. Ever. No. I kind of saw the handwriting on the wall when Shonna…" Before he could finish, he noticed a customer near the counter and said, "You need some help, young lady?"

One of Bill's favorite things about owning and running a local bakery is when people catch his vision. "A lot of people pick it up as soon as they come in in respect of the fact of what we do, what our dream is, what our goals are, and that is to provide fresh, provide local."

Though not advertised as a French Boulangerie, Persimmon Hill Farm and Bakery has a strong French influence. One question they often receive is, "Who does your laminated dough?" "We do it right back here," said Bill. "We have a lamination machine now and we used to do it with the kids and it would take hours, literally hours. And now, Shonna and I made a trip down to Louisiana 10 or 12 years ago and bought a huge laminating machine. It changed our life, changed her life in the kitchen."

Lamination is a process of folding in pats of butter and rolling the dough repeatedly to create a fine-layered croissant-like texture. Bill described to me their process.

"We do 27 layers of butter. Shonna studies French baking, French cuisine, French breads, French this, French that. Just like crazy. I get up in the middle of the night, I go run on the farm. That's just my thing. I like to do that or get on my tractor during the daylight.

Shonna gets up, whenever she gets up, she gets on YouTube and watches a couple of different bakers over in Paris, or outside of Paris, that have live shows at their morning hours. And they take questions and she asks questions and she learns a lot from those guys."

Realizing their vision requires demanding hours. Shonna usually wakes up at 3 AM and arrives at the bakery by 4 to prepare for the day. Bill and his employees arrive around 6 AM and Bill often leaves at 7 PM.

"So it just takes a lot of hours. Yeah. But it's like anything in life, you're going to be doing something, you may as well do something that you enjoy. We enjoy this."

Bill expects Easter to be another big day. When I asked him what he expected the big-seller to be, Bill said, "Hot cross buns. We sell a lot of hot cross buns. We get a lot of orders for hot cross buns. Pies. We make a lot of different meringue pies for Easter… Easter is our third highest selling pie day."

For those who missed out on Pi-day, you still will have a chance for more pie this Easter.

Connect with Persimmon Hill Farm & Bakery here:
Persimmon Hill Farm & Bakery | Stillwater OK
Persimmon Hill Farm & Bakery, Stillwater. 4.405 vind-ik-leuks · 672 personen praten hierover · 64 waren hier. We are a family owned business located in Stillwater, OK. We have an on-farm Commercial…

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