Hopkin’s story isn’t unique for the customers who frequented Joyce’s Homemade Cookies on Broadway Avenue. One bite of any of Joyce’s 40 different kinds of cookies, rolls or breads and you would instantly understand why thousands of people in and around the Pittsburgh region chose Joyce’s cookies to be the “cookie table” at their wedding or the cookie tray at Christmas.
After being in business for 25 years, Joyce’s Homemade Cookies recently closed its doors late December.
“Joyce’s Homemade Cookies has been a real icon from the Broadway Avenue business community,” said McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation Executive Director Taris Vrcek. “It’s sad to see her go.”
Few would guess Joyce Pecorelli, a Stowe native, is 85-years-old. And, after 50 years of being an entrepreneur, she’s finally throwing in the rolling pin. In 1963, she opened a hair salon on Island Avenue that remained open until 1975. Due to health issues, she closed its doors, but she was back in business again – this time, opening a candy shop.
Her next and final venture spawned from her passion of baking. When she started bringing her now-famous nut rolls around to friends, they encouraged her to start selling them. That’s when Joyce’s Homemade Cookies opened its doors at 647 Broadway Avenue.
Joyce’s Baker, Rosemary Butter, said she met Pecorelli in beauty school.
“Anything she’s ever worked at, she’s been at the top of her game,” said Butter as she concocted cinnamon coconut twists in the bakery. “The magic is in her hands.”
Most of Joyce’s Homemade Cookies were wholesale, with thousands of cookies going out the door to specialty grocery stores, weddings, parties and community events. For many years, Joyce was a familiar face as a vendor at Italian festivals from Ligonier to Bloomfield.
The top-selling cookies included the classics—lady locks and biscotti. Joyce’s also offered a host of unique cookies, such as the “Florentine Lace” – a nutty, crisp cookie drizzled with chocolate and the “Mostaciolli,” a chocolate-nut cookie recipe passed down by her Italian mother.
Customers also had the opportunity to walk inside Joyce’s shop to pick up their favorites. The pantry-like entrance welcomed them with racks of cookie trays filled with colorful and attractive treats.
“Joyce’s Homemade Cookies reminded me of growing up and eating my grandma’s homemade cookies,” said Hopkins.
Pecorelli put a lot of love into her cookies and wanted to share them with everyone. She would graciously offer customers cookies to try – like a grandma feeding her grandkids with delicious homemade treats until their bellies hurt.
And, if there were cookies left over at the end of the day, she would pack them up and send them to the nuns at Sister of Our Lady Charity at Nativity Convent in North Side. Joyce’s cookies could also be found at a number of local fundraising events helping to uplift the community.
Anyone who has ever made authentic Italian cookies and baked goods knows how much time and effort goes into making them. Up until she closed the shop’s doors, Pecorelli worked full-time alongside three paid employees including Rosemary Butter, Robin Sines and Jerry Thompson. Her son and his wife volunteered their time helping out, too.
Pecorelli said if she were any younger – she’d continue baking and running the business. She’d like to say thank you to her husband for his help over the years— especially with the renovations— and to all of her customers for whom she had the pleasure of getting to know over the years.
“I’ve had a lot of good customers and I love to do it. I feel bad leaving,“ she said.
“Joyce is an inspiration to young and old residents of this community alike who have a dream to start their own business,” said Vrcek. “It’s all possible through hard work and your individual creativity.”
Learn more about Joyce’s Homemade Cookies in this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article.
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