In Centerville, Tennessee, Carolyn Armstrong, owner of Mrs. Armstrong’s Fried Pies, has been cooking her specialty since she was a teenager and now produces 500 pies daily, selling them locally and also shipping them to every state in the United States. Recently, Garden & Gun magazine published an article headlined “The Best Southern Foods: 100 Things You Simply Must Eat Before You Die.” High on the list was Mrs. Armstrong’s Coconut Fried Pie (with a nod to her chocolate pie as well).

The Oklahoma City go-to spot is the Original Fried Pie Place, where owner Christy Bodine-Black and her staff bake between 800 and 1,000 pies six days a week. Recently, Bodine-Black launched a second store in Richardson, Texas, a Dallas suburb, where business also has boomed and now includes catering service for everything from weddings to business meetings. “Seniors,” she says, “have always been the major part of our customer base. But recently, we’ve been seeing a lot more young people coming in.”

And out in the tiny West Texas town of Gordon, Sarah Lively has used her grandmother’s fried-pie recipe and proven that the American entrepreneurial spirit remains alive and well. A few years back, she decided she would help with the tight family budget by rising before dawn and cooking a dozen or so fried pies in her kitchen to sell to a local convenience store. Jump forward to the present day and you’ll find Lively now serving as owner and head cook of Backroads Bakery Inc., which operates out of a large new building. There, she and her staff cook 5,000 fruit pies weekly to be sold at a growing number of stores. And Lively fills mail orders for expatriate Southerners living as far away as Maryland.

“Aside from the wonderful taste,” says Clark, “I think what people like most is the fact that you can walk around while you’re eating one. I have people who come in and get their order, and then, rather than sit at a table, they go stand by the window while they eat their pie.”