Anyone who knows Bud Royer can tell you that he's a man who is never without a maxim. Sayings that appeal to and inspire him are plastered all over the interior walls of the tiny Royers Round Top Cafe, the company's website, and its Facebook page. The operative Bud-ism for the opening of this story is an anonymous quote that says, "Some men dream of worthy accomplishments, while others stay awake and do them."
On the night of Thursday, Nov. 1, Bud and Karen Royer were watching news reports of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy along the coasts of New Jersey and New York. Karen turned to Bud and suggested they prepare the Royers' annual Thanksgiving feast and figure out a way to serve it to 1,000 people who had lost their homes to the storm and weren't likely to be back in their homes in time for the holiday. By Friday morning, Bud felt he had a pretty good handle on the logistics involved in preparing a multicourse feast (roast turkey, cornbread stuffing, giblet gravy, congealed cranberry salad, whipped sweet potatoes, and Karen's pumpkin pie), packing it up, and trucking it to the Northeast. By the end of the first day, however, he realized that with a mail-order pie operation already in place, it made much better sense to donate enough pies to feed 5,000 people rather than dinner for 1,000. The great Texas pie migration of 2012 was on its way.
The next hurdle, of course, would be finding money to fund the endeavor. Donating food to worthy causes or participating in benefits is nothing new for restaurateurs; they get asked to do it all the time. According to Bud's calculations, this particular donation was going to cost about $15,000 in food, labor, truck rental, and transportation. "I know our cafe patrons' hearts, and I was sure they would want to help underwrite the project," he explained, "but getting the information out to everyone, explaining the plan, asking for donations, and getting the money collected was going to take several days we just didn't have." So on Saturday morning, Royer approached longtime business colleague and CEO of the Dallas Market Center, Bill Winsor, who makes it a habit to eat at the cafe when visiting his ranch near Lexington. "I called Bill on his cell and told him about our plan. He immediately grasped what we were trying to do and said the Market Center would underwrite the whole thing," Royer recalled. The appropriate Bud-ism here is: "Common men binding together to reach uncommon goals!"
The plan to drive 650 homemade pies to New Jersey and New York and distribute them to relief agencies and soup kitchens was in place by Monday afternoon. Bud's friend Doug Runyan, a sales representative for Source One Marketing, had signed on as Bud's driving partner in the rented Dodge Sprinter procured by another cafe customer. Steve and Amy Simmons of Amy's Ice Cream offered to loan Bud some insulated packing bags their company uses to transport frozen ice cream so it wouldn't be necessary to rent a refrigerated truck.
Bud and Doug will pack up 650 frozen pies on Sunday, Nov. 18, and hit the road. While the guys are driving to the East Coast, their wives will fly up and meet them there on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. At this point, it's still unclear exactly where they'll be dropping off the pies, but the targets are the Jersey Shore, Staten Island, and Rockaway, Long Island. "We've mapped out those areas and expect to drop 100-150 pies across five to seven stops along a route," Royer said.
Once he had a workable plan in place for the pies and their preparation was set motion, Bud turned his attention to finding a way to enhance each donation and involve his big-hearted cafe clientele at the same time. This was where the gift cards came in. At first, Bud considered putting a $25 gift card in each pie box, but he realized it was unlikely that whole pies would be distributed to a single person or one family, but rather portioned out as part of some larger holiday meal. Gift cards would have to be distributed at each stop along their route. Bud installed a link on the Royers Round Top Cafe store website to make it possible for his vast cafe and mail-order clientele to donate $25 toward the purchase of gift cards while ordering their own holiday pies. The link (store.royersroundtopcafe.com) has only been up since Nov. 9, and Royer's customers have already donated enough money for more than 200 gift cards. Because Visa and Mastercard are unable to waive card fees, Royer is considering Lowe's, Home Depot, Target, and/or Walmart cards and is working out the details this week. "We need to have the gift cards in hand by Monday, the 19th, in order for Karen and Janis to bring them when they fly up to meet us," he explained. Based on the response so far, it looks like that won't be a problem.
While Bud is busy making the connections to bring his holiday pie distribution dream to fruition, regular holiday business is ongoing here in Central Texas, where the Royers' commissary kitchen in Giddings will ship out more than 2,000 pies to regular customers before Thanksgiving. The Round Top Cafe and the new Royers Pie Haven across the street in Henkel Square Market will sell several hundred more. At this point, the "pies for hurricane relief story" is only half told, but Bud also has a plan for its completion. He's arranged for crews to film the load-up and departure, as well as the arrival and distribution on the other end. We'll be following Bud's grand pie adventure in our On the Range blog over the coming week, and we'll post the video as soon as it's available. The Bud-ism that seems most appropriate here is: "There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit."
Royers Round Top Cafe is on Main Street in Round Top, Texas, about 70 miles east of Austin.
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