A global pandemic didn’t stop Eliza Bowman from opening a second Prohibition Pastries location.
Last February, after signing the lease for the spot at 6168 Centre Ave. in East Liberty, Bowman had to put her expansion plans on hold and figure out a different way to sell her sweet and savory pies, cakes, cookies and bread made with boozy ingredients. (Alcohol is burned off during the baking process, leaving behind only flavor that both adults and children can enjoy.)
“Many of the accounts I had gotten are businesses that are now closed for good, foot traffic disappeared and I went to an entirely online pre-order system with curbside pickup,” Bowman says. “I had to furlough my staff and, in many ways, it was like going back to square one — running the business by myself, working long and hard to make sure that we weren’t forgotten and that orders were still coming in.”
And while her original site at 7105 Reynolds Street in Point Breeze is temporarily shuttered, she’s busy cranking out goodies such as winter ale pecan and rum coconut pies in the new 1,100-square-foot space. A bigger kitchen means she can produce more wholesale treats and, once Covid restrictions are lifted, allow customers to sit inside the café and on the outdoor terrace.
All the staples are available: hand pies, pot pies, scones, sticky buns, muffins and brioche doughnuts — and she’s ramping up production of cookies and cupcakes.
Bowman is expanding the bread program to include sourdough, baguette and poolish, a fermentation starter that enhances the bread’s flavor and gives it a chewy texture. Traditional Scottish sausage rolls also also make their menu debut soon, along with Irish shortbread and Scottish oatcakes.
Since the business started in 2017, Bowman has been concocting recipes that call for Wigle Whiskey, Bluecoat American Dry Gin and Maggie’s Farm Rum. With many new breweries and distilleries popping up throughout Pittsburgh, she’s trying to cement new partnerships and add unique flavors to her food.
In the meantime, she’s reaching out to frontline workers to give them a sweet boost during long shifts. Through the Pay It Forward campaign, customers can make a donation of $25 (about 20 pastries) to $500 (about 300 pastries), which will then be delivered on a rotating basis to East Liberty Family Health Care Center, East Liberty Men’s Shelter, UPMC Shadyside, Village at Pennwood Senior Living and UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital.
“The Pay It Forward program helps everyone: I can still take the money for products I am making, and we can give it to those who are doing the hardest job right now,” Bowman says.
Folks also can join Prohibition Pastries’ Pie Club, a monthly subscription service, and order an East End Survival Kit consisting of fresh products from Bowman’s business and four other food and beverage makers in the East End: Barmy Soda, Commonplace Coffee, East End Brewing and Black Radish Kitchen. Keep the goods or give them as gifts.
As the company grows and adapts, Bowman is even considering applying for a liquor license so she can serve local beer and spirits with her alcohol-infused treats. But she isn’t ready to take that shot just yet.
“I think first I need to make sure this business sees it through the pandemic,” she says. “But then, you never know, cocktails and cupcakes anyone?”