“I would have loved to have continued working at the stand,” Knepp said. “I love making pizza. And I love my customers. ... I sure don’t want to retire.”
But, she said, various complications from intestinal surgeries she has suffered since early last year have made it physically difficult for her stand up all day making pizza, and to do all the other heavy lifting and other work it takes to stock, clean and maintain the stand.
“My doctor said I’ve been doing too much,” she said. She said she does not want to risk damaging her health further by continuing to work at the stand.
Without being able to sell pizza, she said, she can’t afford to continue to pay rent on the stand at Root’s, located on Graystone Road between East Petersburg and Manheim.
The stand has been closed for several weeks while Knepp has been recuperating from her latest surgery in July.
“Making pizza is not an easy job,” Knepp said. “And I have suffered so much in the last eight weeks.”
Knepp, a grandmother in her early 70s, gained nationwide attention for her pizza when she won the USA Caputo Cup New York Style pizza championship in January 2016 in New York City. Knepp beat more than 100 other pizza chefs from across the country.
Knepp said Monday she had been thinking about closing the stand even before winning acclaim.
“After all those years, I really wasn't making money," she said. “I just loved making pizza.”
But, after she won the national pizza prize, “everyone came to the stand — people from all over the world. I got all kinds of customers,” she said.
Knepp said she hopes to be well enough to attend the Pizza & Pasta Convention in Atlantic City in October, and to compete again in the Caputo Cup contest there.
She also competed in the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas in March 2016.
Knepp, who learned to make pizzas about nine years ago, also appeared on Viceland’s “The Pizza Show.”
Before making pizzas at Root’s, Knepp ran the Knepp’s Caramel Corn stand at Root’s and at Green Dragon Market near Ephrata with her husband Albert Knepp, who died in 2008.
Knepp said she informed the Root’s management on Monday she would be closing her stand. She hopes it can continue as a pizza stand, she said, but added she has not yet decided the circumstances under which she will sell the stand.
“It is with great sadness that I have decided not to make pizzas at Root's anymore,” Knepp informed her customers on her Facebook page Monday.
“Most of my customers are wonderful people,” Knepp added. “I’d like to thank them for their patronage all these years. I don’t know what I’m going to do now.”