Written by Nicky Park | Photos by Zephyr McIntyre
Consistency can be comforting. For Sacramento staples like seventy-year-old Pasty Shack, the reliability that it is always there tucked away between 2-Me and the J St. post office adds to our sense of community. Many people don’t know what a pasty actually is, and owner Billy Mier says the shop is often confused for a pastry shop. But a pasty is more dinner than dessert. If you want authentic British food, Pasty Shack is one of the only places around that truly honors its authenticity. Billy makes sure of it. These pasties, basically a meat pie, are delicious, but for the vegetarian, you have options too. Everyone can enjoy a pasty!
Surprisingly, for all that Billy knows about the origin of pasty shops in North America, he is actually fourth generation German/Irish. Ironically, the Pasty Shack that serves British food is busiest on Saint Patrick’s Day. It is, as Billy notes, the “most festive” day of the year.
Billy comes from a long line of hard workers, and that work ethic did not skip him. He spent decades working and managing Lucky stores, which helped him transition to his current position as the owner of the shop. His late brother, Chuck, owned and operated Club 2-Me (now Chuck’s wife does), and suggested when Billy retired that he should run the neighboring restaurant. So he did. And he did it well. They keep their costs and expenses low, they employ three people and they are grateful for each customer. Patrons are served on a small plate with a “Thank you very much” to follow. Billy loves this “unique shop” and it was, as he says, “ideal” for him and the time of purchase.
Considering the years of Billy’s experience, he has one very important piece of advice to aspiring restaurant owners, “The number one thing to do: go to culinary school.” Billy understands that a restaurant will not last decades based solely on a good idea. One needs experience and dedication. Billy says, “Get ready to be involved for a long time, it is a lifestyle.” This is a lifestyle that Billy has grown to enjoy, evidenced by his twenty five years of dedication.
In the beginning of his ownership, Billy was the head baker, but he has since shared the position with others. Fifty percent of the Pasty Shack’s business is take and bake, and I will say, this is a brilliant service for busy hungry people. For those readers who frequent Club 2-Me and develop and appetite for a hearty dish, Pasty Shack will make the journey to deliver a pasty to you. Nice!
The Pasty Shack is undergoing a transition, however. Billy is ill and unable to perform the daily duties of an owner. His son, David, has been gradually moving into the position so that Billy can rest and enjoy his family and friends. This has been a difficult time for the Miers, and I can understand why; I spent enough time with Billy to do the interview for this article, and I felt sincere kindness and generosity; I felt welcomed and well cared for. His friendly demeanor and warm heart have encouraged this author to continue patronizing the Pasty Shack (plus the food is delicious). Billy says that his family and friends have been incredibly supportive, making this life change as easy as it could possibly be considering the circumstances. And I am sure with a trainer like Billy, that David will successfully carry on the family business; he has owned a restaurant before and appreciates the fact that there is “a lot of mystery” with this type of establishment.
With his investment in this town, David says his father “has a lot of friends” which I do not doubt. Billy has been involved in several social activities including The Grandfather’s Club where he has participated in soccer and little league. (Billy might have an affinity towards baseball; two of the four photos on the shop’s wall are from his very own little league days).
Another admirable characteristic of Billy is how proud he is of his family, and how proud he is to be a part of it. When his health was at his best, he participated in weekly family dinners and enjoys the camaraderie he feels with his kin during any such gathering. One of the things he appreciates most is the connection to his heritage he and his family share, and being a part of the early businesses in Sacramento. According to a quick Google search, Sacramento was founded in approximately 1850. Billy’s family arrived in 1851, so the intimacy he feels with the town makes sense.
Billy has been through devastation with his health, and attributes his resilience to the support of his family. He wants to express what a tremendous backbone his wife of fifty one years (Bobbie) and his four children have been for him. Billy says, “I am extremely blessed and happy with everything I have.” What this author found to be the most evocative part of this interview is that in spite of everything Billy says, “I wouldn’t change one thing in my life.” And how many of us can actually say that and mean it? His hard work and dedication have been inspirational to his family, friends and community, and will not be forgotten. David speaks for himself and the family when he says they are proud of Billy. They love him dearly and think of him as the “centerpiece.”
Thank you Mier family for your wonderful food and warm hearts.