Moving Forward – Carrie Raya & Buttercup Bakery and Cafe of Morro Bay

Written by Judy Salamacha

November 18, 2021

Buttercup Bakery & Café employee Brent Griffiths shows off a cake.
Photo courtesy of Carrie Raya

At a recent Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce gathering, I was totally mesmerized by Carrie Raya, owner and chief baker of Buttercup Bakery & Cafe located on Morro Bay Boulevard next to the Bay Theater. She described what it meant to be a small business owner in Morro Bay, especially during the 2020-21 pandemic. I said to myself, I couldn’t have written it better, certainly couldn’t have said it better. I asked her to share her presentation with my readers. I guarantee Carrie’s words are worth the read.

Buttercup Bakery & Cafe owner/baker Carrie Raya baking a tasty treat at the shop located in Morro Bay.
Photo courtesy of Carrie Raya

Carrie is a graduate of Cal Poly where she met her husband, Rich, when they worked at the University Union. He lived in Morro Bay near downtown when they married and where they are raising their three children, Lucia, Avery and Isaiah.

Enjoy Carrie’s entrepreneurial journey: “I recently had an interesting comment said to me that has made me think about how people perceive me and what I do. This person who I have known for years and who wants to own his own cafe someday made this comment after finding out that I was a catcher on my softball team both at Yreka High School and Siskiyous College. He was impressed that my position was behind the plate, as catchers are usually really aggressive, and tough, and are willing to get down and dirty – and most of you who know me probably think I don’t exude those qualities.
“But this person said to me, ‘Wow, a catcher, huh. I thought you were just a prissy little baker.’ Well, after holding back from punching him in the face, I stared at him in amazement for a just few seconds, and thought to myself…

“If only you knew what’s it’s like being the first person in the county to start a home based baking business in 2013 with 3 toddlers ages 4, 2 and 9 months at the time; a husband that worked full-time to financially support you as you pursue your dream; and technically not being allowed to use your teeny-tiny kitchen for production if any kids or pets were popping in and out, meaning all my work had to be done after they went to bed. So, I started baking at 8-9 at night, and would finish up around 2 a.m., then try to get some rest, although my youngest was still a baby and would wake up frequently at night while the other two would be up early.

“The rest of our day we spent delivering the cookies I made the night before around town, with 3 kids and dozens of cookies all piled onto a stroller — we were quite the sight.
“If only you knew what it’s like to take the biggest risk of your life and open a brick and mortar a few years later – again with 3 kids who are still pretty young, your husband working the night shift at his job so that he can take care of the kids during the day while you’re at work, and this being your first restaurant where you had to borrow money from your generous and trusting family and you’re now responsible for employees, a successful product line, an enticing menu, equipment, licenses, insurance, quality customer service, the whole she-bang.

“If only you knew what it’s like being a baker, waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. most mornings, working 10-12 hour days, coming home to take care of kids while your husband is at work, relying on your dear friends, like Hilary Saner, Patricia Nolan and Leslie Gayle Fillmore-Mascorro, to help you with everything to get the business going — hoping there will be some money left for you to take home after you’ve paid all of your bills and employees in those first few years.

“If only you knew what it’s like pouring your heart and soul into creating products that are consistent, exciting, flavorful, picture-worthy, and finding employees you can trust, like Jordan Alban Vallat, my manager, who is incredible, and Brent Griffiths, who has been there through thick and thin, and many others. And (employees) who are skilled enough to replicate what you do so that you don’t have to be there every minute of every day even though you truly love it.

“If only you knew what it’s like carving out a niche in the community — to be a place that people truly want to come to — being the best you can be for these people, whose tastes and affection you are whole-heartedly seeking.

“If only you knew what it’s like having all that come to a halt when the pandemic hits, but you still have bills to pay and employees to take care of.
“If only you knew how many changes we made just to make it — people we had to let go, inventory we had to cut, production we had to down-size, grants we were awarded like the one we were given from the amazing City of Morro Bay.

“If only you knew how determined we were for our families, for our employees, for our community.
“And if only you will know what it’s like someday to see your success from the grit and tenacity you have, the success of keeping your head down to grind through when things are about to fall apart; the success of keeping your chin up and not letting the pressure get to you; the success of your employees still coming to work and working extremely hard to keep the business going because they believe in it, and they believe in you; the success of people in your community still coming to support you now more than ever before — people like Morro Bay City Manager Scott Collins having his meetings on our patio, Morro Bay Chamber CEO/President Erica Crawford coming two times a day some days when I ask her to meet up with me, and she already has a meeting planned here for later in the afternoon, like Jamie Irons volunteering to work the counter and washing dishes for us during our events, like St. Timothy’s Father Ed (Holterhoff) snatching up anything chocolate, and only chocolate, to serve to his parishioners and a family he is hosting, and the list goes on of the amazing people in this community.

“If only you will know the success of accomplishing what you set out to do. It has always been my dream to own my own bakery, and sometimes I can’t quite believe we are still in business and busier than ever before. It is with great pleasure and honor that I am fortunate enough to serve this amazing community, even if I am ‘a prissy little baker.’ Thank you.”

Applause, applause, applause! And if you couldn’t stop reading make sure you stop by Buttercup Bakery & Cafe and let Carrie Raya know. And if you are a fellow small business, thank her for eloquently expressing what it means to be a small business owner in Morro Bay. Why not stop in during the holidays? Butternut Bakery is baking pumpkin and pecan pies, holiday dinner rolls and whatever baked goods you will need to entertain family and guests this season.

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