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Gracie Mae’s Sandwich Shop Serving Up Home Cookin’ in Warwood

Photo by Alan Olson Tracy Mountford is hard at work getting Gracie Mae’s Sandwich Shop ready to open Friday.

WHEELING — An unassuming building on the corner of North 4th Street and Warwood Avenue houses a business that’s serious about food.

Tracy Mountford, owner of Gracie Mae’s Sandwich Shop, said the business opened its doors in November 2017, where she is the sole official employee. The location at 339 Warwood Avenue was in use for their family’s catering business, Food by R-n-T, for over a decade before Gracie Mae’s opened separately.

Mountford prepares all the food on-site, describing the business as “a small mom-and-pop shop.” Grills outside start the day hot as she and her husband, Ron, grill up the chicken and pork in view of the main road. Inside, crock pots and tubs chock full of food cover all surfaces, while refrigerators are stuffed full of the day’s product. Their son, Nate, also helps out when possible.

Mountford said the customer favorite would probably be the smoked chicken salad, which is a big seller. She struggled to pick a personal favorite of her own, though.

“I have a lot of family influence,” she said. “I make homemade soups every day; I don’t buy pre-made. … Our meats are all done on the grill, right out front.”

Mountford said she’s always looking to try new things and expand her menu — most recently, she tried a pizza burger, with pepperoni, cheese and pizza sauce.

The sandwich shop is in addition to Food by R-n-T, which caters. In 2010 and 2011, the family brought home the People’s Choice award and the Grand Champion trophy, respectively, at the Ohio Valley Rib and Chicken Cook-Off. Both Tracy and Ron remember their wins fondly.

“Everybody laughed at us when we rolled up with our grills in a trailer, while they had their big rigs,” Ron said. “They weren’t laughing as hard when we walked past them with the grand champion trophy.”

“Our favorite one was winning the people’s choice award, the year before,” Tracy added. “That meant more, because the people had voted on it.”

At the Warwood location, Mountford said business was somewhat inconsistent, but there are dedicated, repeat customers. The smoked chicken salad turned a non-believer into a loyal customer with one sandwich, she said.

“I did the farmer’s market this year, it was the first time doing it, and I had some lady come up going, ‘What is smoked chicken salad? It doesn’t even sound good!’ So I gave her a sample and she just went, ‘It’s delicious!’ So every week, she’d come back to get a sandwich.”

The Mountford family are Warwood natives, and greatly enjoy serving, and giving back to, their community. Around October, Tracy said, they procure tiny pumpkins to hand out to children, among other efforts.

“When I got into this, I thought, ‘I’m not going to get attached to my customers,’ but by God, I have. I’ve had a few pass away, God rest their souls, and one lady we never met — her sons and daughter would come get her food — and when we heard she passed away, we were devastated. I didn’t want to get attached, but I love them. I treat them all like family.”

Gracie Mae’s is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday.

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