Clifton is a one-store town. A place where you can fill up your gas tank, get all your deli needs and even drop off a library book all in one spot.
That spot is Papa Jay’s and in addition to serving all the above, it’s also their “jerky headquarters.”
Opened in 1997 by Jay Moyle, the store has been serving the community for over 20 years.
“He always smelled like jerky,” Mary Jane Penrod, Jay’s daughter and current owner, said. “So did my mom, because it was always going.”
While the store has been fulfilling the community’s “hickory-smoked beef” needs for more than two decades, Mary Jane said Jay had been making jerky long before the business began.
“He always wanted to do this,” she said. “He’d been doing it at his home in an old refrigerator outback, and then he got some smokers that he put in the garage. And he did that for years, and he would take it around to people and say ‘what do you think of this.'”
Though quite the expert now, Mary Jane didn’t officially get involved at the store until 2004.
“Sometimes I think ‘why am I doing jerky?’ Because, actually, I studied to be a nurse and I worked as a nurse for years,” she said. “But then, when my dad got sick, I came here, and he gradually showed me how to do the jerky.”
Since he passed away that year, Mary Jane has fallen in love with the jerky and the store, even though each batch is quite a process.
“It takes six hours to smoke it and two hours to lay it out, two hours to trim it, an hour to slice it,” she explained. “It has to brine overnight.”
It’s been 15 years since she took over and the store has gone from smoking 50 pounds of meat a day to 120. A total that doubles up to 240 for the holiday season.
In addition to smoking their own meats, Papa Jay’s will also do custom orders with the meats people bring in on their own.
And, busy as it may get, Mary Jane and Co. keep her father’s dream alive.