The exterior of Barb’s Pizza and Pasties, a longtime Clawson  staple, advertises its homemade specialties March 21.

The exterior of Barb’s Pizza and Pasties, a longtime Clawson staple, advertises its homemade specialties March 21.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Namesake of Barb’s Pizza and Pasties dies

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published March 27, 2018

 Eric Sell displays a beef pasty that he made earlier in the morning at Barb’s Pasties and Pizza March 21. The beef pasties include potatoes, carrots, rutabaga and onions, and they are made with his mother’s recipe.

Eric Sell displays a beef pasty that he made earlier in the morning at Barb’s Pasties and Pizza March 21. The beef pasties include potatoes, carrots, rutabaga and onions, and they are made with his mother’s recipe.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Barb Sell

Barb Sell

CLAWSON — After a long and storied life, Barb Sell died peacefully at her home at the age of 81, surrounded by family and loved ones, March 14.

Her legacy will live on, as Eric Sell, the oldest of her six children, will continue selling her famous pasties and other homemade food items on a menu that has expanded over the years at Barb’s Pizza and Pasties, 610 S. Main St.

“She’s in a better place,” said Eric, who lives nearby in Clawson. 

A former truck driver, he said his parents asked him to help out at the family business for six months. Thirty-four years later, he still owns and operates the Clawson staple.

He said his mother and father, Jerry, opened the business on June 1, 1984, after Barb’s home pasty side business boomed.

“She always made them when we were kids,” Eric said. “One of the neighbors across the street said, ‘Hey Barb, why don’t you make pasties for the neighbors and sell them?’”

The idea stuck, and Eric said his brother, Kevin, began handing out flyers to neighbors on his paper route.

“People started to call, and then they would make them, and it got to the point where they were making 100 a week out of the house,” Eric said. “Then this place came up for sale — it was just like a regular pizzeria — and my mom said to my dad, ‘Maybe we ought to buy it.’”

The rest is history.

Eric said his parents started out small with pasties, pizza and subs and then began to expand the menu. Homemade zucchini bread, the family’s carrot cake and made-from-scratch cookies became customer favorites.

“It just kept growing and growing,” he said.

The small business also sells salads and recently began making stuffed green peppers, stuffed cabbage and mostaccioli.

After closing Monday, March 19, for Barb’s funeral, the business reopened March 20.

Clawson resident Karen Lewton popped into the shop on March 21 for a vegetable pasty and some carrot cake. 

“I first popped in a long time ago — long, long ago,” said Lewton, who has called Clawson home for 26 years. “It’s homemade. It’s great. You can’t beat it. You just can’t go anywhere else and get this. It’s just wonderful.”

She said she has had pasties elsewhere, but none compare to those at Barb’s.

“I like the vegetable pasties, and their carrot cake is the best in the world,” Lewton said.

The Sell family has roots in Copper Country in the Upper Peninsula. Eric said the pasties his mother baked came from his great-grandmother’s recipe.

A framed photograph on the wall shows his great-uncle posing in the mines.

Eric said his mother worked in the store the first 12 years, along with numerous family members, including his aunt and his wife, who worked at the business for 18 years. Sadly, he said she lost her battle with cancer seven months ago.

He said he believes that she is also in a better place, along with his parents.

“We’re just a unique little place,” he said. “I’m going to keep it going, maybe another five or six years.”

He said the business has approximately eight or nine employees, and that the family helps out when needed.

“We’re a very close-knit family,” he said. “On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, if you come on any one of those given days, it’s crazy in here. It’s been very, very busy for us for a lot of years.”

Although Barb’s Pizza and Pasties sells its pasties with gravy, Eric said he was raised to eat the beef pasties with ketchup in the tradition of those who hail from north of the Mackinac Bridge.

“I wouldn’t put gravy on my pasty,” he said.