By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
In 2006, TV personality, author and celebrity cook Rachael Ray also launched her own magazine called ‘Every Day with Rachael Ray’, which boasts of travel ideas, party menus and decorating ideas, cooking tips, supermarket shopping tips … and of course lots of recipes! Thanks to the combined efforts of her food writers and local experts, they did plenty of tasting to find the “most iconic” foods from every state in the U.S. (and D.C.) that can be shipped to your door! A recent edition of her magazine highlighted the elite list of ‘51 Awesome Mail Order Foods’ – one from each state and D.C. – that received this distinguished recognition.
The winner from West Virginia was none other than Tomaro’s Bakery in Clarksburg! And the featured item that is so well-loved as an awesome ‘mail order’ food is Tomaro’s pepperoni rolls. Pepperoni rolls became ultra-popular clear back in the 1930’s as a staple for Italian coal miners, and it seems they haven’t lost their status during the past nine decades!
Tomaro’s owner Janice Brunett says that while doing research for this magazine feature, a Rachael Ray staff member contacted her to order and taste the pepperoni rolls. And this is not the first time that Tomaro’s Bakery items have made the “favorites” list! They have been featured in Garden & Gun magazine, Local Palate in Charleston, SC, Gourmet Magazine, Southern Living and even the New York Times! Mrs. Brunett was also visited by a representative of the New Orleans Food & Beverage Museum because foods from every state were represented there – except West Virginia. Tomaro’s took care of that omission!
Janice, who shattered her femur several years ago, has hired a manager at the bakery; however, she is NOT out of the business. Now, she tends to bookkeeping and office work but is still a very active overseer who is determined to remain the woman at the helm.
“Determined is one thing I am,” she stated. “Years ago when my husband died, I assumed the responsibility of the family business. I had of course worked with him through the years and I had asked a lot of questions, which was a good thing because I was then on my own. After his passing I had lots of offers from people wanting to buy the bakery; they said I’d never make it because I was a woman! That just made me more determined to continue. And when I shattered my femur several years ago, they told me I might never walk again. Once again, I persevered and stuck with my rehab exercises … and now – with 12 screws and a brace in my leg – I’m walking better than ever before.”
Janice says that although there have been NO changes to the family recipes handed down from four generations ago, a few other changes have been made. The bakery last year celebrated its 100th anniversary, and during those hundred years there have been expansions and modern mechanization, and the business is strong.
Another perk is that a family member started ‘Anna’s of Glen Elk’ about three years ago, a business that is devoted to exclusively distributing Tomaro’s products.
“We have always had requests to mail our pepperoni rolls to people who once lived here and moved away. But with today’s society ordering more things over the Internet, it has really taken off. Thanks to Anna’s, our products are more professionally packaged and mailed fresh every Monday and Wednesday,” she continued.
Orders come from all points – east and west, north and south. A gentleman in Las Vegas orders 5-6 dozen pepperoni rolls every few months. Another on the Gulf coast of Mexico orders as well – and wants overnight shipping to guarantee freshness.
“It amazes me that people are willing to pay more for the shipping than for the pepperoni rolls themselves!” Janice added.
Her son John also noted that a prominent businessman in Minnesota orders bread, pepperoni rolls and buns by the dozens for annual hunting expeditions he takes with friends. Once again, orders are placed in advance and arrangements are made so that Tomaro’s products arrive on the same day they do!
Tomaro’s Bakery products are not just loved by folks in the local area. The Washington Redskins, for example, have feasted on Tomaro’s products; and Lou Holtz says he understands why the business has been around for 100 years!
“I am very honored and proud that our bakery has received such attention. But it is due in part to having wonderful employees over the years,” Janice concluded. “I appreciate ALL of my loyal customers so much. They have given us such tremendous support throughout all of these years, and my family is very grateful for that.”
The Rachael Ray list of ‘51 Awesome Mail Order Foods’ included Hawaiian Honey Glazed Macadamia Nuts harvested on the Big Island … Sugar Cream Pie (also called Hoosier Pie) from Indiana … Mint Julep Bourbon Balls, a decadent candy from Kentucky … Clam Chowder from Massachusetts … and the Idaho Spud Bar from Idaho, which is not a potato but a healthy candy bar shaped like a potato … and many more favorites that are worthy of the shipping costs. And from West Virginia, it’s Tomaro’s pepperoni rolls that deservedly won Rachael Ray’s kudos!