Rita Barlow prepares a batch of beef jerky for Papa Jays in Clifton on June 15, 2021
CLIFTON – Unless a driver takes a wrong turn onto the West Side Highway, or decides to spend a day at Twin Lake fishing or swimming, or maybe makes his or her way to Oxford they may have passed by Clifton. The town is the home of Papa Jays World Headquarters, a white building with red and blue signage and gas pumps out front located at 10 South Main Hwy adjacent to the U.S. Post Office. Papa Jays produces their own jerky and sells it all over.
Clifton just surpassed 300 residents for the first time in 2019 and was named for the cliffs on the mountains that overlook the town. It might also be known to some as the birthplace of Harold B. Lee who taught school there and later became the leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Tera Westover, bestselling author of Educated, was also born and raised near Clifton.
In 1996, Jay Moyle restored the only retail store in town to make it the world headquarters of his jerky empire. He passed away in 2004 and his family wanted to keep his dream alive, so they kept making and selling jerky.
Today, Papa Jays’ gourmet hickory smoked beef jerky is operated by Mary Penrod (Jay Moyle’s daughter) and her husband Richard, a physical therapist at a nearby hospital.
“We have been running it for 17 years now and some of our employees have been working here long before we took over the business,” Penrod said. “Rita (Barlow) has worked here for 20 years. She is a big part of making good jerky.”
The business started after Jay began experimenting with making beef jerky in his garage. He tried different spices and smoking techniques until he felt he produced the world’s greatest beef jerky. Then he taught his employees like Rita how to make it.
“Rita makes sure everything is perfect. She inspects every piece of meat up until it is packaged,” she said. “We also have about 30 other people working here. Most of them are part time and live in the West Side (from Dayton to the Oxford area).”
Jay started with two Little Chief smokers in his garage and a dehydrator in his laundry room. Each batch was an experiment and Jay shared with friends and family. He perfected the process to his liking and produced a unique, moist and tender style of jerky.
The world headquarters also houses a convenience store and a deli.
“The deli has done well. We serve a lot of meals and it has grown in popularity,” Penrod said. “The BBQ sauce is the original recipe made the way Papa Jay did.”
People come from miles around to Papa Jays’ deli to have sandwiches. The pulled pork and roast beef is slow cooked for 12 hours. They also serve hamburgers right off the grill.
“Our numbers have gone up every year,” Penrod said. “I feel like the reason for the growth is good jerky.”
She said their jerky tastes like real meat, is moist and has no after taste. People buy it and to give it away as gifts. They can only get it from their headquarters in Clifton.
“We feel like the business is doing well because of our service,” Penrod said. “We have a good product, and we try to give good service.”
There was a Papa Jays in Logan for three years but chasing another store was getting complicated, so they closed it.
“We have a lot of people that supported us in Logan drive to our Clifton location,” she said. “We also have a lot of bikers and bicyclists stop on their way through town. And there are a fair number of people going to Twin Lakes.”
Mike Penrod, their son, oversees the website for the business.
“We still use the same four seasonings my father used,” she said. “We have tried different flavors and they didn’t sell very well except one. So, we stuck with what he had and added one more seasoning.”
They claim all you need to do is take a bite of their jerky and you’re hooked.
The Clifton business uses hand-trimmed USDA beef, brines it overnight in their secret recipes, and slowly cook it to perfection with real hickory smoke to create the world’s best beef jerky.