News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Business

February 19, 2008

Former owner of Parks Purity Pies proud of three-decade transformation of his business

Company employed 31 people, made more than 12,000 pies a day

TERRE HAUTE — When Ivan Wilkinson bought Parks Purity Pies from Thurston Parks a few years after World War II, the little pie-making business on Wabash Avenue had just three employees and made around 520 pies per day.

By the time Wilkinson sold the company more than three decades later, it had 31 full-time employees and was making around 12,000 pies per day.

“No pies out there could compete with our pies,” Wilkinson, 84, said at his home in Terre Haute. Parks Purity Pies were sold all over the Midwest, he said. Even at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“I was thrilled when I saw Clark Gable [who was making a movie at the speedway] eating a piece of my pie,” Wilkinson recalls.

Thurston Parks started his little pie company in 1925. Wilkinson, a Terre Haute native, started working for Parks as a truck driver at age 22. Less than two years later, Parks was ready to sell his business and approached his young driver with an offer.

Using a small savings for a down payment, Wilkinson became the new owner of Parks Purity Pies in 1948.

“We just continually grew,” Wilkinson said of his business. Eventually, he hired someone else to drive the delivery truck so he could manage the business full time.

Quality pies, with no preservatives and a special crust, kept demand for Parks Purity Pies strong, he said. Several other pie companies around the state went out of business while Wilkinson’s business continued to grow in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.

“We prospered right on through,” Wilkinson said. Parks Purity Pies were soon selling all over the state and as far away as West Virginia.

“They were delicious,” said Carolyn Burke, who remembers eating Parks Purity Pies as a kid growing up in Terre Haute. “They were the favorite thing in every kid’s lunch box at school,” she said.

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