Sixty-eight years ago, Mary Woodruff opened a pie shop in Monroe, Virginia.
Today, 103-year-old Woodruff is still in the active participation of running Woodruff’s Store: Café & Pie Shop.
The centenarian recently sat down with NBC’s Al Roker for the Today Show and spoke about her life and her business.
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Woodruff’s Store: Café & Pie Shop was a joint venture by Mary and her now-deceased husband James.
Woodruff told Roker, “We (she and her husband) were happy. We were just getting ready to do something together. And we did. And I’ve been blessed.”
The building that houses the shop was first constructed by the couple themselves in the 1950s. Upstairs was where the Woodruffs lived while their cake and pie shop was below.
The establishment was one of the first businesses owned by black people in Monroe. This meant that as pioneers, the Woodruffs faced racial discrimination.
Angela Scott, Mary’s daughter, said “They (her parents) had a couple [of] bricks thrown through the window. And then my sisters integrated the schools in Amherst County. And as soon as that happened, there were a lot of [white] people who didn’t like that, so they stopped patronizing the business.”
Scott’s two sisters who were admitted into white-majority schools are Darnelle Winston and Darnette Hill. Today, all three sisters help run their parents’ shop.
But Woodruff’s Store: Café & Pie Shop was closed in 1982 after 30 years in business when Mary felt she could not carry on. In 1998, Scott, with the help of her husband, reopened it.
“It was off the beaten path (after reopening). It had been closed for so many years. There were days that we didn’t have a customer, maybe one or two,” said Scott.
Through her mother’s encouragement and advice, Scott persevered. No time has been better than now for their cake and pie business.
The boxes that carry the pies from Woodruff’s Store: Café & Pie Shop are stamped with the Bible verse Psalm 34:8: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.”
These days, Scott is really grateful that the family keeps a shop like that. “I just really do think it was a God thing,” she told Roker.
Drawing inspiration from Mary’s continued participation in running Woodruff’s Store: Café & Pie Shop, Scott and her sisters would hope to leave it perhaps, to the generation.