Food & Drink

A Former CEO Turned Pie Shop Owner Takes It One Slice at a Time

And shares her favorite strawberry pie to welcome spring

A white building with a large glass front with trees and shrubs in the front.

Photo: PHOCO

The Ginger and Baker market and bakery.

Childhood memories stir some of the most powerful emotions—especially when they involve a touchstone as personal as pie. For Ginger Graham, memories from her upbringing in rural Arkansas were strong enough to guide her from the board room back to doing what she loved.

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Graham is the founder and co-owner of Ginger and Baker in Fort Collins, Colorado, along with her husband, Jack Graham, a former football player for the Miami Dolphins. Graham, who has a Harvard MBA, was at one time the interim CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance and is currently the lead independent director for the company. But before that, she was a girl who loved cooking and baking with her mother, Earlene, in Springdale, Arkansas. 

photo: Shaye Kaessner
Ginger Graham in her bakery.

“I know we were poor, but if you had it and someone needed it, we gave it to them,” she says of her childhood. “That’s what my mom did with food.” And almost every time her family took food to someone’s home, they included a pie. “Pies are made by hand with limited ingredients, usually locally sourced, and they’re easy. Pie is shareable food and has all the makings of being in this together,” she says.

In 2012, the Grahams moved to Fort Collins, and in 2015, while looking for a home for her pie shop, a historic old mill stirred something in her. It reminded her of the old coop buildings she used to visit with her dad as a kid. The mill even had a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. “I fell in love with the building,” she says. “It’s been a witness to the growth of Fort Collins for over a hundred years.”

After an extensive renovation that brought a few surprises (like the time they discovered a molasses pit in the basement had not been emptied and workers sank knee-deep into the dust-covered “floor” in what the Grahams fondly called “the La Brea Tar Pits of Fort Collins,”), Ginger and Baker opened the week of Thanksgiving 2017 as a 23,000-square-foot restaurant, bakery, and culinary venue in Fort Collins’s River District.

The Grahams added a new “pie-shaped” building that adjoins the restored old mill and houses modern additions, including commercial kitchens, accessible ramps, and a three-story elevator. During the height of the pandemic, the Grahams enclosed one rooftop patio and added weather and shade protection to a second open-air space to accommodate more outdoor and mixed-use seating.

Now, the combined buildings are home to two restaurants, a hands-on teaching kitchen, several event spaces, and the Market & Bakery, where guests can purchase such favorites as meatloaf, pot pie, and mac and cheese. The chocolate explosion, quadruple coconut cream, and cherry pies are bestsellers, and homemade jams and honey from Graham’s bees are also popular. On sunny days, the “popsicle window” on the pet-friendly patio is a hit with  both humans and furry friends (“pupsicles” and other doggie treats are available from the Ginger and BARKer menu). 

Graham shared her top baking tips, plus the recipe for her mother’s strawberry pie:

1. Adding a little vodka to pie dough keeps it moist and easy to work with. Vodka’s ethanol helps prevent gluten from binding and makes the crust flakier. “It’s especially helpful here in Colorado with our dry climate,” Graham says.

2. “If you freeze your butter and use ice water to make the dough,” Graham says, “a flaky crust is in your future.”

3. Make pie dough the day before. “Everything works better after a little rest.”

4. Use the ripest fruit you can find. ideally fruit that’s in season.

5. Fresh spices make all the difference.

6. Don’t have a rolling pin? A clean wine bottle will do the trick.

photo: Marc Piscotty Photography
Ginger’s mother Earlene’s strawberry pie.


  • Earlene’s Strawberry Pie (Yield: one 9- to 11-inch pie)

  • G&B Pie Dough (Yield: one 9- to 11-inch pie crust)

    • 12½ oz. (or 2½ cups) all-purpose flour

    • ½ oz. (or 1 tbsp.) granulated sugar

    • ¾ tsp. kosher salt

    • 8 oz. butter cubed, frozen

    • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

    • 1 tbsp. vodka, if needed

  • Earlene’s Strawberry Pie Filling

    • 4½ tbsp. cornstarch

    • 1½ cups sugar

    • 1½ cups water

    • 1 (3 oz.) box strawberry gelatin (don’t use sugar-free)

    • 1½ quarts strawberries

    • Whipped cream, for serving


  1. Make the crust: Cube and freeze butter.

  2. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter and mix until little balls form.

  3. Combine vinegar and a splash of ice water, approximately 3 ounces. Slowly add liquids to the dry mixture until it reaches desired consistency. If dough does not come together, slowly add vodka until it does. 

  4. Shape into a puck and wrap with plastic. Let rest in the fridge until cool throughout (at least 45 minutes).

  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough in a 12- to 13-inch circle. Place in a 9-inch pie plate, trimming excess to a 1- to 1½-inch overhang. Turn dough under along the rim of the pie pan, and flute edges. Chill at least 1 hour before baking.

  6. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

  7. Place a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper in pie crust, extending over edges, and fill with dried beans, rice, or pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes. 

  8. Remove from the oven, remove foil and beans (saving beans for your next blind bake!), and return piecrust to the oven. Bake for 14–17 more minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven, and cool completely on a wire rack.

  9. Make the filling: Combine cornstarch and sugar in a saucepan. Add water, stir well, and bring to a boil. Simmer until mixture is thick and clear, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in strawberry gelatin until fully incorporated.

  10. Cool until just about set and fold in strawberries. Spoon into the prebaked crust and refrigerate until pie is set and can be cut cleanly.

  11. Serve with freshly whipped cream or Cool Whip.