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Prime ministers, premiers and campaigners came to Picone's for pie

Jean Chretien has been there. So has Paul Martin. So has Mike Harris, and Elizabeth May, and John Turner. But this is the first federal election in recent memory where Picone Fine Food hasn't handed out pies.

This is the first federal election since the end of the tradition of giving politicians pies

Sharon Picone, left, chats with Sheila Copps about the pie tradition this month in Dundas. For years, prime ministers and campaigning politicians stopped at Picone Fine Food for a pie from Elsie Picone. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Jean Chretien has been there. So has Paul Martin. So has Mike Harris, and Elizabeth May, and John Turner.

For decades, politicians came into Picone Fine Food of Dundas to get a pie on the campaign trail. This is the first federal election where that hasn't been the case.

Federal leaders have visited on tours through Hamilton. Cabinet ministers have visited, and even local campaigning candidates. For each, Elsie Picone piled freshly cut apples into a pie crust and baked them a steaming, delicious pie.

From left to right, Sharon, Lisa and Theresa Picone are the owners of Picone Fine Foods. (Andrea Cosby/CBC)

Elsie died in January 2013, so for this election, her remaining three daughters have discontinued the tradition, said daughter Theresa. That makes it a bittersweet election for the sisters.

"We didn't want to carry it on after she passed," she said. "It was really her thing."

The Picone pie tradition is known far and wide by politicians, including former Hamilton MP Sheila Copps, who stopped there recently on the campaign trail helping local Liberal candidates. She's gotten Picone pies before.

The store itself celebrated 100 years this year. It started in 1915, when Joseph Picone Sr. came to Canada from Sicily and started selling produce on King Street West.

Theresa said she doesn't even remember how the pie tradition started, or even when it started. She just remembers the stream of important people it drew.

Pie for every political party

She estimates there have been four prime ministers and several premiers, as well as federal, provincial and municipal election candidates. Elsie Picone was even recognized on Parliament Hill for her pies.

It was like 'why are we doing this?' It wasn't for us to do.'- Theresa Picone

"It was non-partisan, really," she said. "It was anybody. We had them all."

Elsie loved politics, which was likely how the tradition started, Lisa said. She attended all-candidates meetings and may have offered a pie to one of the candidates.

"She could hold her own in those conversations," she said. "She really loved politics. If Mom had carried on with her academics, it would have been a great fit for her."

The Picone pie tradition "brought attention to Dundas," said Arlene VanderBeek, Ward 13 councillor.

"It was a symbol of our community mindedness, and the inclusive spirit of Dundas," she said. "Elsie was so community minded and such a significant icon in Dundas that for her to present the prime minister with a pie was kind of indicative of the quality of community life that we appreciate."

Trudeau got the last pie

Justin Trudeau came in for a pie two years ago, and the sisters obliged. But they realized, while making it, that it just wasn't the same.

"We were caught up in the moment and it was like 'of course we have to do this,'" Theresa said. "And it was like 'why are we doing this?' It wasn't for us to do.'"

"(My mother) baked the pie. She sliced the apples. She did all the work that went into that pie. It just didn't feel good."

Theresa said that "maybe in time," the sisters will think of something to replace the pie tradition. In the meantime, the photo of the younger Trudeau sits above the bakery counter, the last of a tradition.

"It's been a privilege for us to meet these people who run our country and have a say," Theresa said.

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