Ansa Cox has had plenty of magical moments thanks to growing up in the family business: Mom’s Apple Pie Company.
“I could put on roller skates and roller skate through that whole building,” Cox says of her family’s first factory space in Herndon. “We were there for 20 years, so a lot of my youth was there.”
But even a family business as idyllic as a pie shop isn’t always sugar sweet. That’s why, when Cox started her own bakery in place of the Occoquan location of Mom’s Apple Pie, she decided to call it The Golden Plum.
The metaphor of the name is folktale-inspired. “Everyone thinks it’s all the positive side of the fairy tale, but really, it’s both sides, it’s the dark and the light,” says Cox. Spending so much concentrated time together, a family business exacerbates your typical family issues. “There’s a mysteriousness or a darker shadow side to things, and a lighter, juicier, fun side.” It’s represented by the imagery of the Golden Plum.
After a ribbon-cutting on August 1 and a soft opening prior, The Golden Plum is officially up and running, as evidenced by the sweet smell of butter crumb wafting out its doors.
The look and feel of the place are new: Out is the country store “mom-and-pop vibe,” in is a darker, more mysterious look complete with stained pine floors.
But Mom’s same beloved pies remain. Fruit-based staples like the sweet-tart strawberry rhubarb pie come with the choice of butter crust or butter pecan crumb. They also carry seasonal picks like blackberry and raspberry pies and “underdog” favorites such as lemon chess.
People keep coming back to these pies “because it’s real stuff,” Cox says. “We’re actually making things from scratch; we sourced the best fruit that we could find.” Her dad, she says, is especially big on ingredients and has worked hard to perfect the fruit combinations in their recipes. If they can’t find fruit that is up to their standards, they don’t make the pie.
Though she grew up in a family of pie royalty, Cox didn’t always know she wanted to run a bakery herself.
“I’ve always kind of searched for what I wanted to do,” says Cox. “But at the same time, I’ve always been a homebody too, and very much involved with the business. Even when I moved to New York, or lived away for college, I scheduled my classes so that I’d have long weekends where I could come back, get 40 hours of work in.”
It seems natural that Cox made the full circle choice to return considering this work ethic and dedication to pie. It runs in the family’s veins: Ansa’s sister, Petee, has a bakery of her own in New York City called Petee’s Pie Company.
But, most pressingly, Cox returned because the Occoquan location of Mom’s Apple Pie was at a crossroads. It was the store farthest from central operations in Loudoun County, and when its longtime manager retired, there wasn’t a natural fit for a successor. No one knows Mom’s pies like the family does, so the location would have closed altogether if one of them didn’t take it over, says Cox. So, she took the leap and started a bakery of her own in its place for a mix of fresh and familiar.
Like the store that preceded it, The Golden Plum offers sweet treats besides pie, including classic cinnamon rolls and the newly added pineapple upside-down cakes. But not too many, not yet at least, because one of Cox’s main goals for the new business is quality control.
“We’ve cut back on all of the other baked goods so that we can focus on what we know that we do well, and then sort of take on new things one at a time,” Cox says.
Now, Cox is finding her footing and securing final back-end details. Potential future projects for The Golden Plum include adopting her sister Petee’s Italian meringue recipe and experimenting with new flavors like passion-fruit meringue. She’s working toward a happily ever after.
“Nobody likes change, really. But I’ve actually been surprised at how many people come in and sort of squeal, like, ‘Oh, this looks so good,’” says Cox. “It’s touching.”
Feature image by Olivia Garrone
For more stories like this, subscribe to Northern Virginia magazine’s Food newsletter.