GTPulse: Traverse City Mother and Daughter Start Pepperoni Roll Business

A treat with southern roots has made its way to northern Michigan.

High school cafeteria ala carte food probably rates around a 4.5 on a 10 scale. Not because all of the food is lackluster, more because of the wild variation between it. Hot dogs, burgers and nachos were all options I dreaded seeing at my high school. The dogs bounced like rubber, the burgers were as hard as hockey pucks and the nacho cheese was made on Monday and reheated throughout the week. I can still see the skin of dried cheese being mixed in when it got warm enough in its large, gross cauldron. What could possibly tip the scales after having to endure the likes of that? Pepperoni rolls. Circular pillows of puffy, pepperoni-filled heaven were fueling a large portion of high school kids in Dearborn, Michigan in the mid-2000s. Moms sent their kids off to school with lunch money thinking that they’d buy whatever the well-meaning special of the day was. Instead, we were all eating a full day’s worth of calories in cheese, dough, and pepperonis. When I bring them up nowadays, sometimes people know what I’m talking about, but a lot of times they don’t. In fact, I haven’t seen many of them around since school.

“The first time I had a pepperoni roll I was in elementary school. We only had them once a year for a fundraiser and the kitchen staff would make them and we’d sell them,” said Megan Hall, a Traverse City resident, and pepperoni roll maven.

She and her daughter Brooklyn Hall have spent a lot of time together throughout the past year with Brooklyn being homeschooled. A high school senior project required Brooklyn to come up with an operational business plan and Brooklyn’s Pepperoni Rolls were born.

Little known to me, pepperoni rolls have southern roots. Megan spent her first 10 years of life in West Virginia before moving to Michigan. She had fond memories of the south, and especially for pepperoni rolls, something that she found wasn’t easily available in other places.

“They’re everywhere in West Virginia but if you go over the state line you cannot get them anymore. You cross the border into Ohio and nothing.”

A population of Italian immigrants in West Virginia is credited with making the first pepperoni rolls when they were working as miners. Similar to pasties, they were a hearty meal that didn’t require utensils. For those who haven’t experience them (yet), pepperoni rolls are a combination of pepperoni and spices rolled into a soft crust. It’s basically pizza but without the sauce, sometimes without the cheese, and possibly better depending on who you ask.

Brooklyn experienced the rolls on trips to West Virginia with her mother. When the class project to start a business came up, Brooklyn and Megan knew that this could be something that folks would like. It’s different enough that they’re not replicating anything else here, yet their likeness to pizza makes them familiar.

Megan and Brooklyn work under Michigan cottage law, meaning they can operate out of their home kitchen. Brooklyn will make the dough a couple of days before she and her mom will make rolls. After the dough is made it won’t be baked until the rolls are assembled.

“The baking has to be done fresh. It takes a few days in between, the dough has life.”

Then it’s out for delivery all over Traverse City. So far they’ve been taking orders solely through the Brooklyn’s Pepperoni Rolls Facebook page and email, and have sold out every week. It’s been a great way for both Megan and Brooklyn to bond, make some extra money, show people what pepperoni rolls are, and hear from the people who already know what the deal is.

“Just like you, we meet people who have these connections to pepperoni rolls and their own unique story with them. Whether it was a bakery outside of Dearborn, or reading about them in a southern blog. We have this amazing opportunity to show people our version, which we feel is a good representation of what it is.”

Experience the pasty of the south with Brooklyn’s Pepperoni Rolls. The slightly sweet, double rise dough, airy layers, paper-thin crunch, and hint of spice make these pepperoni rolls something to dream about. Orders can be made through her Facebook page and through, and if they sell out, don’t pout.

“We don’t turn anyone down. We just offer them the next available baking date. We bake the morning of and then they get sent out. We get to deliver to parts of Traverse City we’ve never seen, we meet amazing people, and we get to hear their stories about pepperoni rolls.”


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Categories: GTPulse