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Once-Homeless Entrepreneur Expands to Englewood

Mr. Tod's Pie Factory now open on West Hudson Avenue.

When patrons walk inside Mr. Tod's Pie Factory at 15 West Hudson Avenue in Englewood, they are met with an immediate aroma of homemade pies, cobblers, muffins and cookies.

The part bakery, part eatery, which opened in August, is decorated with warm tones and oversized photographs on the walls depicting some of Mr. Tod's creations. 

The combination tempts onlookers looking to satisfy their sweet cravings.

"The cobblers are my most popular at this location," said Tod Wilson, who owns another Mr. Tod's Pie Factory in Somerset. 

Wilson first got into the baking business as an incoming freshman at the University of Richmond when his godfather, Edgar Ramsey, asked him to help with his home-based sweet potato pie business.

"I remember walking into his house and it just smelled like pies," Wilson said. "I walked into the basement and there were little pies everywhere."

Wilson spent the next four summers helping his godfather making, baking and selling sweet potato pies.

Upon graduation, Wilson contemplated going into law or law enforcement but decided to become an entrepreneur. His godfather convinced him he had the right personality for business and Wilson was attracted to the concept of controlling his own destiny.

"I had the passion in me as the captain of my college football team and a member of student government," Wilson said. "I also noticed you can make a decent living working for yourself."

When Wilson and Ramsey disagreed about expanding the product line, Wilson ventured out on his own, and with help from his mother, Jaime McDonald, Wilson opened a factory in New Brunswick.

But when the pie business struggled, and he couldn't meet his expenses, he lost the factory, and found himself living homeless in his car on the New Jersey Turnpike.  

"My friends called me Grover Cleveland because that was the rest area I used to sleep in," Wilson said. "There were so many 'signs' that you needed this to get to where you are today."

Wilson recalled a conversation he had with the president of his university just before he gave his commencement speech.

"Dr. Moore was the president and he said to me, 'You know Tod, if you keep going the way you're going, you're going to be on the cover of Black Enterprise one day,'" Wilson said. "I said, 'Dr. Moore, I'm going to be on the cover of Fortune'".

Wilson’s determination enabled him to go from sleeping in the back seat of his car to becoming the first contestant on "Shark Tank", the ABC realty TV series produced by Mark Burnett in 2009 featuring entrepreneurs seeking investments for their business or product.    

“My goal is not to be a local legend,” Wilson added. “My goal is, when you say Coke, you say soda, when you say pampers, you mean diapers, when you say Mr. Tod’s, you mean great desserts.”

Mr. Tod's Pie Factory is open Monday-Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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