WEIRTON, W.Va. (WTRF) — It may be called a coal miner’s lunch, but West Virginia’s sports fans haven’t had any trouble embracing it as their meal of choice.
As March Madness begins, the Mountaineers’ exclusive pepperoni roll provider is ramping up production for hungry spectators.
You may know it as your favorite game-time snack… or maybe just as the bread they throw during time-outs, but what you may not know is that every Coliseum pepperoni roll’s journey starts the same way: 84 miles away in a small Weirton factory.
Barney’s Bakery on Park Drive is the home of WVU’s official pepperoni roll.
President George Barney started off with local sales of cakes, cookies and other sweets, but it was when a friend tried his pepperoni roll that he realized how much their recipe was resonating.
“He looked at me and he said, ‘You really don’t know what you have there.’ And I said, ‘It’s a pepperoni roll.’ And he goes, ‘But your roll is as good as anybody’s in the state,'” George said.
And from there, the route from small-town bakery to statewide success was inevitable.
Today you can find Barney’s rolls at Walmart, Sam’s, Costco, Kroger and of course, wherever the Mountaineer is. Its formula is even finding success far beyond our mountains.
“I think the farthest we’ve had someone call us is from Louisiana, wanting to know if they were going to be on sale,” George said.
With the help of a small factory team, Barney’s has it down to a flaky science. The company is expecting to make $3 million for distribution this year alone.
12 News affiliate 7News in Wheeling asked for the secret to a good roll, but all Vice President Mary Jo Barney would say is you have to know dough.
“They’re guillotine cut on the ends. So you don’t have that glob of dough, the dough isn’t folded on the ends, it’s guillotine cut, so you’re getting pepperoni from end to end,” Mary Jo said.
So now that Barney’s kitchen creativity is achieving stadium success, how does George feel about representing one of West Virginia’s chief food exports?
“Sometimes I just look at it as my job, and she gets on me and says ‘You should be proud,’ and I am deep down, but… it’s just not me,” George said.
But the Barneys have every right to take a bow. They’ve earned their own footnote of West Virginia history, one that Gold and Blue Nation can see flying over the stands.