As Audrey Day watches the production of hundreds of chicken pot pies in the basement kitchen of American Pie Company Bakery, she can't help but remember her Sherman restaurant's early days.

"I'd never made a pie in my life and we'd chosen the name American Pie Company for the restaurant," Day said.

Fortunately, she and her business partner, Bill Hunniford, had retired baker Herb Krug on staff.

"Herb taught me everything -- German recipes," Day recalled. "He worked with me for the better part of our first year, then stayed on part time for the next 10 years."

On Memorial Day, American Pie Company celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Today, the business has 30 employees.

Remembering back to that first day in 1993 when they were short staffed, Day has to laugh.

"The first day we opened, everybody came in and bought everything right off," she recalled, "and we didn't know how to staff yet. There I was, out front on the floor thinking, `I've got to get back and bake some more.' "

Day and Hunniford met as students at the University of Connecticut. They worked together in a restaurant and lounge part time while attending school, both enjoying the service industry.

At age 26, they pooled their money and opened the American Pie Company in Sherman, Day's hometown. Young and inexperienced, they found themselves putting in 18 to 20 hour days and learning quickly.

Today, both are married. Day has four children and Hunniford has two. The kids have had a presence in the restaurant over the years.

"We were fortunate," Hunniford said. "We started with a brand new building, designed its layout and Audrey's dad, Addison, did all the woodwork in oak."

In 2010, the baking area was moved to the basement. The bakers produce orders of 1,000 chicken pot pies for Stew Leonard's. They are marketed under the American Pie Company name.

"We produce in larger ovens now," Hunniford noted. "We provide for farm stands from Larson's in New Milford to Vasukas Farm in Middlebury. We bake pastry for Tasty Waves."

From the beginning, Hunniford was "quite particular" about the restaurant's chicken pot pies, Day recalled.

"You go to a lot of restaurants and get a bowl of stew with a puff of pastry on top," Hunniford said. "A pot pie has to be big, filled with chicken, gravy and vegetables, with a top and bottom crust."

One day last week, Gary Levitt, from Canada, and Stan Freeman, from New York City, sat on the restaurant patio enjoying slices of apple crumb pie with vanilla ice cream.

"We were driving along and saw the umbrellas," Levitt said. "It's a beautiful spring day and we were looking for a cozy place with good artisan food."

"The ambiance from the exterior draws you in," Freeman added. "I'd always heard wonderful things about the restaurant. Now we've had a wonderful lunch and are enjoying a very good apple pie."

American Pie Company Bakery is located at the junction of routes 37 and 39 in Sherman. It is open seven days a week. Summer hours are Mondays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Tuesdays through Sundays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call 860-350-0662.