If only Walmart knew Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pies would be such a big hit.
The sweet potato pies by LaBelle have been exclusively available at Walmart stores for weeks, but the pies suddenly began flying off the shelves after Los Angeles-based singer James Wright Chanel posted a video of himself tasting the pie and singing the singer’s biggest hits.
Since the video was posted on Thursday, Walmart stores throughout the country have reported selling out of the pies. According to the store’s website, locations in Los Angeles, Miami and the singer’s hometown of Philadelphia are all sold out of the pies as of Sunday afternoon.
“I turned into Patti,” Chanel said in a three-minute video in between taking bites of the pie. “You’ll turn into Patti after eating this…You’ll feel like Patti LaBelle after eating this. Go to Walmart and buy the Patti LaBelle pie.”
The viral video, where Chanel sings LaBelle hits “If Only You Knew,” “You Are My Friend” and “On My Own,” has been viewed more than seven million times on Facebook and more than 700,000 times on YouTube as of Sunday afternoon.
Walmart in North Bergen, N.J., was among the stores to sell out of the $3.48 pies on Friday.
“Everybody was looking for the pies last night! Everybody,” store Assistant Manager John Mooney told TheGrio.com Saturday morning.
The location received a new shipment of pies, and as of 8 a.m. Saturday morning, 194 pies sat on a table at the entrance of the store, said Manager Douglas Yeakey.
And he was right.
The store manager said the pies, which are advertised as being made with California-grown sweet potatoes, butter and spice, were gone within three hours.
“People have been coming in all day asking about the pies,” Yeakey said, adding a church group called about buying 300 pies. “We’re going to order as many as we can.”
Lucky customers who got to the store early Saturday morning grabbed multiple pies because of the Patti pie craze that was sparked by the video.
Khaliah Johnson, 32, of Montclair, N.J., carried six pies to the register, sang “Over the Rainbow” and flapped her arms and kicked off her shoes (intimating LaBelle) after purchasing the pies.
“Well, I heard that the Patti pie is good, so I want to be over the rainbow,” she said, referring to LaBelle’s version of “Over the Rainbow.”
She said it was Chanel’s video that brought her to the store.
“I saw people post the video on Facebook, so I wanted to taste [the pie],” she said. “It was funny. The best part of the video was when he was singing.”
But Johnson said tracking down the pie was not easy.
“I didn’t know it was going to be sold out everywhere. I searched high and low,” she added.
Some customers came to the New Jersey store from New York City, where there are no Walmart stores, to pick up the “Patti pie.”
Nikita Rispers, 38, of Harlem, said after watching the video she had to get her hands on the elusive pie to share with her co-workers.
“I came out here just for this,” Rispers said. “Patti knows what she’s doing, she’s black!”
Karen Lewis, 49, of the Bronx, also couldn’t wait to try the pie.
“I’m going to try it out now, and if it’s good I’m going to come back and get a bunch for Thanksgiving,” she said.
Kategia Binion, 38, and Dorothy Rasdell, 60, of Belleville, N.J., snatched up six pies and said if it wasn’t for Chanel’s video they would have never known about it.
“The video made me want to taste the pie,” said Binion, adding she enjoyed Chanel’s singing of LaBelle’s songs. “He hit those notes!”
Chanel’s viral video has not only made him the latest Internet sensation but he also received a phone call from the legendary singer.
“When you get a personal phone call from Patti Labell [sic]. Oh I’m gonna have a great day,” he wrote on Facebook on Friday.
LaBelle also responded to an Elle Magazine tweet about Chanel’s viral video, tweeting, “I LOVE THIS!!!”
— Patti LaBelle (@MsPattiPatti) November 12, 2015
Ellen DeGeneres also enjoyed the video. “This is hilarious,” she tweeted.
Actor Lance Gross has even endorsed the pie. He’s posted his own series of videos tasting the sweet potato pie on Instagram.
“Man, look, if I could sing, I would. I can’t sing though,” the Tyler Perry House of Pain actor said in one of the videos. “This [expletive] pie is good though.”
But Shakeena Johnson, 35, of Harlem, said she has no plans to eat the pie.
She only picked it up because they are so hard to find and wanted to boast on social media.
“I’m going to put it on Facebook, like, ‘I got my pie,'” she said, taking a photo of the pies. “I might sell it for more than what it is.”
Michael J. Feeney is an award-winning journalist, public speaker and former New York Daily News reporter. Follow him on Twitter @mfeeney