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Reececliff's Pies A Lakeland Tradition

Pies on display at Reececliff
Pies on display at Reececliff
Pies on display at Reececliff
Pies on display at Reececliff

Reececliff Family Diner in Lakeland has been turning out its award winning pies since the 1930s, and lots of families rely on them every year for their Thanksgiving dessert. The restaurant has been operating in the Dixieland neighborhood since 1934.

In 1953  a teenager named Jeanette Mobley came to work there, and Miss Jeanette, as she was called, baked pies for Reececliff for the next 60 years.

For decades, Reececliff has been famous in Lakeland for Miss Jeanette's made-from-scratch pies. And although Miss Jeanette retired about two years ago, the tradition continues with Mae Smith. Mae says Jeanette started teaching her to bake a few years ago.

"She taught me everything I know," Mae says. "We talk to her over the phone. If I need to know something I call her and she will tell me what to do." You can hear this story and more stories about food and traditions this week on Florida Matters on WUSF 89.7 FM. The show airs on Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 30 at 7:30 a.m.

Mae is 68 years old, and petite. She rolls out and bakes her pies in a small corner of the bustling kitchen. It's the breakfast shift, and workers hurry back and forth through the cooler door next to her.  And... she's wearing puffy plastic bags on her feet.

"I'm so messy when it comes to flour!" she says, laughing. "I have flour everywhere,  and  all over my shoes. So I put the bags on there so the flour won't get on my black shoes!"

That makes sense. Mae is rolling out a lot of pie crusts. She makes 20 to 25 pies every morning. The biggest sellers right now are the coconut cream and the cherry pies. The apple pie is also popular; it won the Ledger's Golden Plate award this year. They cost around $12 to $17 each.

"I make apple, cherry, peach, egg custard, berry, coconut custard, chocolate cream, pecan, chocolate pecan, peanut butter, potato and pumpkin pies. I make a lot of pies."

Right now Mae is rolling out the crust for several egg custard pies. The pastry dough for the crust is made in-house also.

"We do everything home made!" she says. "We don't buy anything."

Burriell Osborne, who goes by the name "Ozzie," makes the pastry dough. He says he doesn't eat the pie himself, because his mother made so many pies when he was growing up that he tired of them. Also, he says, the Thanksgiving pie-making schedule has put him off the desserts.

"We're up all night making them! That's another reason I don't like them to eat them," he says with a laugh, though he says he doesn't mind helping to bake them.

Reececliff general manager Hazel Wood says Thanksgiving is the time of year that they sell the most pies, even more than Christmas. They expect to sell more that 300 pies the day before Thanksgiving.


Mae Smith gets ready to roll out a pie crust at Reececliff
Credit Robin Sussingham
Mae Smith gets ready to roll out a pie crust at Reececliff

Copyright 2014 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Robin Sussingham was Senior Editor at WUSF until September 2020.
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