Meet the Meat Loaf Lady of Bella Vista, Arkansas

How a supermarket cook and her many Facebook fans stirred up a foil-wrapped frenzy

A woman in a kitchen holds a cart with small aluminum tins of meatloaf

Photo: courtesy of Stephanie Hopkins Demilio

Stephanie Hopkins Demilio in the Harps kitchen.

“Can I help you?” asks a young man whose name tag reads Kevin T. He pokes his head over the deli counter at Harps grocery store #175 in Bella Vista, Arkansas, red hair curling around his black Harps ballcap.

Before I have a chance to answer, a woman’s voice with a thick South Georgia accent carries from behind the counter: “He wants to talk to me.” Looking past Kevin T., I see her—the reason I’m here. Her light hair spikes upward through her Harps visor, and she nods at me before she turns back to pulling foil-wrapped bricks of meat loaf from a large wheeled baking rack. She siphons off excess grease before repackaging each loaf in tinfoil.

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This is Stephanie Hopkins Demilio—“Stephanie D.” as her badge reads—a Jesup, Georgia, native who’s worked as a deli clerk at Harps since 2021. In recent months, however, as she’s achieved a measure of increasingly not-so-minor celebrity on Facebook, she’s become better known as “the meatloaf lady bella vista Arkansas.” 

One might not think grocery store meat loaf would command such a dedicated following—as of this writing, the group has 1,743 members—but, oh, goodness, one would be wrong. Leaning on a display of lemon mini-pies, Demilio briefly explains the basics: Every Monday, Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday, she gets to work at noon and immediately starts making the first batch of meat loaves. Today she made fifty-two. Tomorrow she’ll make thirty-nine. In January, she made 758. In February, 772 (“I’m trying to beat my own record,” she says. “I’m a gambler”). The Facebook page, she explains, updates fans on when the meat loaf is available.

To be clear: It is a really good meat loaf. But to say that it’s just about the meat loaf, with its ketchup “icing” just touched with brown sugar, is to miss the point entirely.

photo: courtesy of Stephanie Hopkins Demilio

Back in late October, not long after Demilio had started making meat loaf—and, notably, stocking them in the hot case alongside rotisserie chickens, a major departure from selling refrigerated loaves—she’d started posting about its availability in a handful of local Bella Vista Facebook groups. Before long, someone took offense at all the meaty “advertising”—and for lack of a better meat loaf-related pun, Demilio’s fans just went bananas.

For the next several weeks, Bella Vista Facebook was awash with meat loaf memes, AI-generated meat loaf art, meat loaf everything—and Demilio, in turn, was swarmed with customers asking for her meat loaf. Before she’d made thirteen loaves twice a week, but now she was making nearly two hundred to keep up with demand. Fans formed lines and requested signed meat loaf tins. Meat loaf even began to outpace chicken tenders, the best-selling product of most any Harps deli (this to the minor ​​chagrin of Stephanie’s sister Florrie, who’s in charge of making the tenders).

photo: courtesy of Stephanie Hopkins Demilio

In the midst of it all, Demilio made a new page, “The meatloaf lady bella vista Arkansas,” and the rest is history.

After I listen in on a brief conversation with Demilio’s managers—Channel 5 News will be coming next Friday, they tell her—we return to the hot case, where nearly half of the meat loaf has vanished. There, we find Mary Ellen Pounds (“Like Pounds of meat loaf,” she says when I ask for the spelling), a Bella Vista resident, who is eyeing what’s left. She explains that she’s never been much of a meat loaf person, but after splitting a loaf with her husband the other night, she’s come back to pick up two loaves.

“Well, let me sign it for you,” Demilio says. “Are we gonna take a picture?”

After flagging down Kevin T. to take their photo, Demilio shows Pounds their picture and posts it to the Facebook group. They both agree—“We look good.”