The Times West Virginian

March 3, 2013

Mountain Mama’s getting wider distribution

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Mountain Mama’s is moving in a different and exciting direction.

The Fairmont-based business, owned by Cathy Davis, is taking off after recently signing an agreement with a Pittsburgh, Pa., company to distribute its products across the country.

Davis, a resident of the Friendly City, has always cooked and canned. When she went to potluck dinners, her family and friends couldn’t get enough of the homemade sauces that she brought. She also found an old hunting recipe to make beef sticks.

Because of the interest her loved ones showed in her products, she thought other people might be willing to buy what she had to offer. In 2006, Davis became the sole proprietor of her own LLC, called Mountain Mama’s Peppers.

She found a small Pennsylvania company, which she said she trusts and does top-notch work, that would allow her to use their factory to make her foods. It’s very important to Davis that her recipes taste the same time after time.

“It tastes good,” she said of her products. “I’m big on consistency and quality.”

Her husband, Jim Salai, helps her with Mountain Mama’s.

Davis said the business started out making peppers, but she felt that she couldn’t command the price due to the other pepper products available in the area. So she decided to focus on her other food items, which included the evolution into different meats, and no longer makes the peppers. She is planning to officially shorten the name to Mountain Mama’s in the future.

Today, Mountain Mama’s carries beef, venison, elk and antelope snack sticks in different flavors. The business has plans to make a sweet barbecue wild boar stick, and is also experimenting with bison. Mountain Mama’s makes dog treats, too.

Davis said the sauces complement the meat products, and customers can use them in different recipes of their own. Country apple barbecue sauce, habanero ketchup, hot sauce and raspberry chipotle are available. Some menu items at The Poky Dot Restaurant in Fairmont feature the raspberry chipotle and the habanero ketchup.

Many of Mountain Mama’s most popular items were actually created by accident, Davis said.

She said her products initially got noticed when she was offering samples at farmers markets, festivals, craft shows and other events. Mountain Mama’s items are sold at Heston Farm Winery in Pleasant Valley and in several stores in Morgantown, Clarksburg and Charleston.

Outside of West Virginia, the products can be found in different shops in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida. But the items have traveled even farther than that — including to Texas, Mexico, Arizona and even Afghanistan —as customers send them to their family and friends, Davis said.

After an out-of-state tasting event, Tru Specialties, which is a branch of the wholesale grocers and convenience store suppliers AJ Silberman and Company, expressed interest in selling and distributing Mountain Mama’s items. They recently signed a three-year contract for Tru Specialties to initially take Mountain Mama’s products to 2,000 stores in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

“It’s scary,” Cathy said of this big, exciting step. “They’re going to take us small scale first.”

This week, she and Salai will be traveling to Orlando, Fla., for a three-day grocery and convenience store trade show where Mountain Mama’s is being featured. The event will mark the launch of Tru Specialties’ distribution of the products, and Mountain Mama’s is prepared to talk to approximately 340 stores and distributors during the show.

“We’re going to be busy,” Cathy said.

In the future, Mountain Mama’s will be selling its items at several Pro Motocross races.

Cathy is also a teacher. This marks her fifth year at East Fairmont Junior High School, where she teaches seventh- and eighth-grade social studies. Before that, she spent four years working at Monongah Middle School.

She said she’s “a true West Virginian” and couldn’t wait to return to the Fairmont area after moving away for a while.

For more information, go online to www.mountainmamaspeppers.com or find Mountain Mama’s Peppers on Facebook.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.