On a Roll: Bakery brings Southern W.Va. flavor to Harpers Ferry


Special to The State Journal

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. — Anna Jackson, a librarian in Warsaw, Indiana, had the pepperoni roll on her mind on a recent trip through the Mountain State.

Marmet native Terri Wilson serves up classic pepperoni rolls at her Harpers Ferry business, A Step in Time Bake Shop.
(Submitted photo)

She got her first-ever taste of the state’s signature snack at A Step In Time Bake Shop, a Harpers Ferry bakery that opened earlier this year. It didn’t take Jackson long to decide there will be more pepperoni rolls in her future.

“They were seriously amazing,” she said in an interview back at her home. “I’m actually getting hungry for them now just thinking about it.”

Jackson’s husband grew up in Pennsylvania and would enjoy pepperoni rolls during visits to his grandparents’ home near West Virginia’s northern border.

“My husband told the rest of us that we needed to try one while we were out in West Virginia,” Jackson said.

Now the Jacksons plan to take advantage of A Step In Time Bake Shop’s mail-order delivery.

“We want all our friends to try these pepperoni rolls,” she said. “My husband says they’re the best he’s ever had.”

A Step in Time baker Terri Wilson, a native West Virginian and coal miner’s daughter, says she’s delighted to be a pepperoni roll ambassador and to introduce the West Virginia staple to folks traveling through Harpers Ferry from all over the country and the world.

“Pepperoni rolls have always been popular in our family and around Charleston where I grew up,” Wilson said. “Now they’re becoming a statewide thing and growing in popularity. It’s great for our state and the positive tourism branding it’s creating.”

Wilson, 64, says she became a culinary expert watching her mom make “everything” from scratch, but she admits the pepperoni roll recipe that’s winning raves for A Step in Time is hers, not her mom’s. Her mother, Jozetta “Jo” Mitchell, a Fayetteville native who died in 1995 at age 87, “never made pepperoni rolls, only fresh bread and hot rolls,” explains Wilson.

In the late 1980s, Wilson drew on her mother’s hot roll recipe to create her own version of the pepperoni roll for her family, and it quickly became a family favorite. In 2009, Wilson moved from her longtime home just outside of Charleston to Jefferson County to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren. Now the Harpers Ferry bakery sells Mama Jo’s Pepperoni Rolls on site, accepts orders online, offers shipping throughout the United States and is working to sell them to wholesale buyers.

“Everyone who tries our rolls loves them,” said Wilson, who grew up in Marmet. “They’re slightly non-traditional as our bread is moist and fluffy but crisp on top. We use two kinds of cheese in our rolls and serve them hot. They’re made fresh here every day.”

The bakery is a group effort for Wilson, her daughter Sarah Gordon — a marketing expert who recently won election to the Town Council in Bolivar, the town next door to Harpers Ferry — along with co-owners Nathene Arms, Manny Staubs and Marla Staubs.

In June, Wilson traveled to Charleston to compete in the first-ever Rolls on the River event, where top chefs from around the Mountain State offered up their pepperoni rolls at a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia. Wilson said her mother, who worked as an elementary school cook for many years and made custom cakes on the side, would be happy to see the pepperoni rolls she helped inspire getting so much attention.

But her mother would also be miffed about one detail, Wilson joked. “She would probably be mad we are using her photo — she always hated taking her picture,” Wilson said. “Mama Jo would certainly be proud of us for our endeavor. Every week our large family would gather at her house in Marmet for big Sunday dinners, and they always included her homemade hot rolls — and now we’re sharing this taste of West Virginia with the world.”

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