There is something about comfort food that evokes a feeling of old-fashioned delight. And when it comes to dessert, there’s nothing like fruit cobbler, bread pudding, gobs or banana pudding to transport you to a time when calories didn’t count and a big scoop of dessert made everything better.
Today, not everyone has time to bake, but you can still put tasty, Southern-style desserts on your table with a visit to CobblerWorld, on Penn Avenue, near the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.
Owner Terina Jett Hicks was one of nine children growing up in a home where things weren’t always easy. But being in a large family with a strong mother taught her resilience, independence and the determination to persevere. At 14, she convinced her mother to teach her how to make her famous peach cobbler, not knowing that one day it would be part of her own claim to fame.
In the meantime, she went on to get a bachelor’s degree in computer systems technology and professional communication from Duquesne University, served in the military and earned a master’s degree in public management with a focus on entrepreneurial project management consulting from Carnegie Mellon University. Hicks then worked in the corporate sector, ultimately for CMU’s University Energy Partnership, until 2014, when she was laid off when the program was eliminated.
Ever resourceful, Hicks reset. With the encouragement of her husband, a retired chief of police, and her two adult sons, she opened a smoothie business, but switched to baking when the regulations surrounding “health” drinks proved overwhelming. And CobblerWorld was born.
For the first few years, Hicks bootstrapped, using personal savings, her IRA and sheer determination to keep her business afloat. She then used resources available through the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Catapult Culinary Greater Pittsburgh, Neighborhood Alliance, GOGO and other agencies, and still participates in workshops and mentoring available to budding entrepreneurs. Hicks is an active member of Chatham University’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship, which helps develop networking and synergy between businesses.
She named her first product “Mamie Lou’s Peach Cobbler” in honor of her mother, who instilled in her the passion for baking and the skills to create desserts. Soon, she was selling sweet potato gobs, pound cakes (including blueberry-lemon, sweet potato, and sour cream), cheesecakes, pies and all sorts of cobblers, including peach, apple, cherry and assorted berries. She now has products in three Shop ‘n Save stores and three Market Districts. Other clients include the Pittsburgh Penguins for private boxes, Levy Restaurants and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
She’s also collaborating with Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream with Mamie Lou’s Peach Cobbler and plans to introduce additional flavors seasonally. “We love pairing with Terina and CobblerWorld for many reasons, not the least of which is the great quality of the product,” said Millie’s owner Chad Townsend. “It’s also really great to work with someone who is so closely aligned with our social values.”
The little Penn Avenue shop is vibrant orange, with an array of individual-sized portions of cobblers, bread pudding, gobs, pound cakes, cookies, and banana and zucchini breads. A refrigerator holds cheesecakes, pies and special orders. With an emphasis on freshness, you’ll have to order ahead if you want full-sized servings of the cobblers, cakes or cheesecakes. Many items sell out quickly on busy days. “We focus not only on the nostalgic confections, but we put our own unique spin on the modern sweets as well,” Hicks said. That includes sweet potato or strawberry Jell-O pretzel cheesecakes, pineapple zucchini bread and pavlova, as well as cobblers in four sizes and more than 10 flavors.
When Hicks is there, she greets regular customers with a big hug, and knows them by name. Her long hours include being not only the CEO but also chief baker, and she delivers goods from her off-site kitchen to the retail store. She has located a building in the East End where she hopes to have the whole operation under one roof soon.
Asked where she’ll be in five years, Hicks was quick to respond: “I see myself as a national company.” She already ships products across the country, and with her nostalgic recipes, entrepreneurial drive, and collaborative spirit, she’s on her way.
https://cobblerworld.com (check the location and hours on the website before visiting)
June 1, 2022