While Joyebell’s Sweet Potato Pies may be relatively new to the scene as a business, the legacy that’s baked into each pie goes back six generations of women for owner, Joye Moore.
As a little girl, Joye remembers sitting at her 2nd great grandmother’s kitchen table in North Carolina, nibbling on a biscuit topped with butter and molasses, while Nannie was at work, singing Gospel hymns while crafting a sweet potato pie using ingredients from her own little farm – sweet potatoes from the garden, eggs from her chickens, and butter she’d churned herself.
“The kitchen was the one place where we were comfortable,” says Joye.
Growing up Joye remembers those pies, popping up for holidays and gatherings, and while she’d always dreamed of owning her own business, she’d never thought about selling the pies until a friend suggested it. When her position at a local non-profit was eliminated, she decided it was now or never, and took the leap.
“I had a decision to make, do I go somewhere and start over and reestablish my work, or have faith and take a chance,” she says. A bit of encouragement came in that last week before leaving her job, when Richmond favorite, The Dairy Bar, where she was a lunchtime regular, offered to sell them at their Scotts Addition restaurant.
From there Joyebells Sweet Potato Pies went on to a Today Show segment, and in addition to The Dairy Bar, they can now be purchased at The Market at 25th Street as well as directly from their website for curbside pick-up at Hatch Kitchen – perfect for those looking for a little comfort food during these uncertain times.
“Sweet potato pie is a comfort food,” Joye says. “It’s a staple to all of our cultural gatherings; it’s a welcome to the neighborhood; it’s just always been a part of something that’s comforting and bringing people together. When I bake my pies, it’s all about love and feeling good.”
Overcoming challenging times and persevering is something Joye has experience with to be sure. At the age of 14 she found herself homeless on the streets of Dallas after fleeing an abusive home-life. She found nourishment in the form of school lunch programs and after school snacks at the YMCA.
Joye has documented her experiences in a memoir, Hopefully Beautiful, and today, she continues to give back to those same types of organizations who helped her when she needed it most through what she calls her “Joyebells Charities.”
“Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness of Virginia), SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now), I support these charities because they are reflections,” she says.
Looking to the future, Joye is working on a cooking show for her YouTube channel to be called, Kitchen Thyme, and of course, passing down the family recipe for pie to a new generation – her daughter and son.
“It’s sharing love,” Joye says, “sharing yourself and that there is life after these things. If you keep moving, it will work itself out.”