Ruby Around South County

We road trip out of the county often, love walking around SLO enjoying all things local, but this time, we decided to explore just outside our town's borders-to its neighbors to the South. Between shopping, eating and exploring the sights, we indulged in South County for a day. Many of these shop owners are great customers of ours and we wanted to experience their spaces for a change. Do yourself a favor soon, and follow our lead-treasures await less than a half hour away!

First stop: Esteem Surf on Pismo Beach. Owner Robbie Dominques shares our love of the past utilizing reclaimed wood, vintage crates, suitcases, etc from our store and elsewhere to enhance his displays. Not to mention he fills his floor with quality brands like Poler, Roark, Oakley (remember these?!). A space that makes you want to dress well, feel inspired, and get out in the water all in one. Oh, and they deliver a case of fresh donuts to the register every morning.

Post shopping, we walked a few blocks up to visit the newly re-opened Chop Street Cafe. Chef Chris Waller is serving up some amazing locally grown, farm-to-table faire (we tasted the mini Shepard's pot pie and fish tacos- yum!), while his wife decorates the space with old bottles, bottles, and succulent arrangements. We have been anticipating their opening with each purchase of olds she found at RR, and we were not disappointed by this talented couple!

With full bellies we jumped cities, heading into Arroyo Grande's Village. A friend and fellow junker, Ely has hoards of treasures to explore within his shop, Village Vintage. His collection of turquoise will make anyone into a lover of the Southwest, and as he unearths the history behind the pieces, your love deepens. This shop is always worth a chat and a gander!

On our way back home, we veered out towards Lopez Lake to admire the wildflowers growing inches from the asphalt. Purple and yellow spotted hillsides- is there anything more lovely than Springtime?

What South County nooks and spaces have you discovered? We need an excuse to get back out there!

Tale of 2 Bakeries: Eclair

“I love cookies: I just think the simplicity and the rustic approach to doing cookies is really cathartic, kind of like doing bread…and I love eating cookies more than anything”
-Jeremy Davenport, Owner Eclair Bakery

The second of two blog posts dedicated to telling the tale of two bakeries, both hailing from Arroyo Grande and each full of what it takes to succeed in the biz.

Things Jeremy Davenport likes: the Northern Coast, baking bread, surfing. So it’s no wonder he loves living in Los Osos and fantasizes about one day opening up a little bread bakery there. With the frequent foggy days along the back bay, the setting is perfect for early mornings mixing dough, scaling, shaping, letting it rise, and turning out a great end product. Jeremy can’t see himself doing anything different. And after eight years of owning his own bakery, he still is passionate about his craft.

Jeremy just acquired this Pendleton sweater from our store the other week, he'd had his eye on it for a while!
Jeremy bought Eclair Bakery back in 2006, but both him and the shop have prior lives to speak of. Eclair originally began in Pismo back in 1977, later in 2003 establishing its current space in Arroyo Grande’s Village. Getting his start at a wholesale bread bakery in San Luis Obispo while working at Boo Boo Records, Jeremy worked his way up to lead baker as his interest in the industry rose. A series of events then brought him to the Culinary Institute in San Francisco: visiting friends who attended the school, meeting a recent Cal Poly grad-now his wife-moving up to the Bay Area, along with his love for the city. He enrolled in the general program, but he admits: “I always gravitated towards the baking & pastry side of things: I loved going and looking at the wedding cakes that the students were producing and I even sat in on some evening classes- snuck in to hang out and take notes.” Simultaneously working at a old San Francisco staple in North Beach, Moose's, Jeremy fed his growing craft, gaining experience with plated, composed desserts.

Upon graduating, he moved back to the Central Coast and began apprenticing at Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara. Here, he worked with amazing chefs and guest chefs learning new techniques while composing desserts for the three restaurants on site, big banquet dinners and for weddings. He kept scouting places to call his own, and when Eclair Bakery went up for sale he tried to purchase it, this first attempt falling through. Still knowing he wanted to do something on his own and tired of the long commute between San Luis and Santa Barbara, Jeremy waited for his opportunity working at a winery in Paso Robles. He finally got the call: the owner of Eclair was ready to sell, to Jeremy.

The bakery, under Jeremy’s hand, not only shares its incredible pastries with its customers but also shares its kitchen space with dabbling bakers in pursuit of their craft. If you remember from our last post, Kelli first launched her business using Eclair’s space, and others like Kirsten Finberg of Little Red Hen Bread first began working here. This biz is all heart, Jeremy’s passion for baking reflects in his motivation to foster creativity and experimentation, inspiring and being inspired: 

“I’ve always loved the idea of having people come in. I was given a really great opportunity, so to give other people that opportunity is really important to me, because I know how good it feels, I’d like to pass that on, too…it’s the community thing, too, not being a jerk.”

One bite of anything from Eclair and you will surely agree: Jeremy is an expert at what he does. But he still longs to learn more, take more specialized courses, and absorb from those around him and other industry aces. His main influences are Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery and Culinary Artistry, a book full of vignettes from different top chefs. Instagram also proves handy in seeing what other shops are producing outside of this area, like G&B Coffee and Valerie Confections. Likely he is, and will be, as influential as the greats he looks up to now. We cannot wait to see what he comes up with next (there is talk of chicken pot pies and savory items joining the menu, stay tuned)!
The table runner (bottom right) is a purchase from Ruby Rose!
You can visit Eclair Bakery any day of the week:
Tuesday-Friday: 8-4:30
Saturday: 9-4
Sunday: 9-2

OR get his fresh baked bread Fridays at Rutiz Farms and on Saturday Farmers’ Market in AG
OR on Thursdays check out his booth equipped with a mini donut maker-turning out mouthwatering morsels at Farmers’ Market

Eclair is stuffed with amazing pastries like his ding dong cupcakes-chocolate cake with cream, then dipped in chocolate- and his vegan black & blue cookies. Jeremy also creates custom cakes for birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings. Stop by his shop or give him a call for more information.

Tale of 2 Bakeries: Sweet Pea

Our next two blog posts are dedicated to telling the tale of two bakeries, both hailing from Arroyo Grande and each full of what it takes to succeed in the biz. Today, the first of our stories: Sweet Pea Bakery and owner Kelli Smithback.

As we sat outside her store eating morning buns that rival any I’ve ever had, it seemed as though every customer walking by had been a long-time friend of Kelli’s. She enthusiastically greets each with like warmth, they reciprocating and apologizing for interrupting her ‘break’. I am not convinced this girl takes breaks: between two farmers' markets per week, selling at Rutiz Family Farm each Friday, and open for biz five days a week, there is not much time off. And no sign of wear in her smile or passion. When you love what you do, it’s sustaining, which makes Kelli’s animated, energetic spirit conceivable after the days she puts in.

“I got inspired to bake because I have a ginormous sweet tooth.”

If this is the case, and your parents won’t let you buy cookies from the store, then you learn to make your own. What began with lemon bars, chocolate chip cookies, haystacks, and baking holiday gifts for friends is now famous Chocobloc cookies, a counter full of scones, macarons, cheesecakes, biscotti, and morning buns. Risen from a hobby into full-fledged business and without any formal training, Kelli began the transition about five years ago while getting her Business degree at Sonoma State. After trips home to Arroyo Grande and occasionally selling her baked goods at Rutiz Family Farm, it dawned on her, “Huh, maybe I could make a business out of this.”
Years of experimenting and recipes ensued, refining her style and developing her baking skill. Upon graduating and returning home, Enzos hired Kelli as their dessert person! After long hours and realizing her need to improve, she stepped away and remained at her other full-time position. Then in 2011, she took a leap of faith, deciding it time to make a go of it in the baking biz. She stumbled upon Eclair Bakery, giving her a commercial kitchen space-and so began the transition from hobby business into the world of permits to establish Sweet Pea Bakery. Kelli weekly sold her wares at the Saturday and Wednesday Arroyo Grande Farmers' Markets, being inspired by locals and tourists and building a following, all the while scouting for the perfect location.

You will find cookies at Sweet Pea with names like the wicked witch, bleeding heart and prince charming, reflective of the owner’s fun, not-too-formal approach to her work. But her knowledge of baking rivals any formally trained baker. In just our time together, I learned the difference between Tahitian and Madagascar vanilla, troubleshooting tips for croissant making, some talk of flavanoids, and how to use alcohol to marinade meat. With roughly 400 cookbooks in her arsenal, I do not doubt she has read through them all. I won’t list her entire collection, but here are her most-referenced: Tartine, Dory Greenspan’s Baking, Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and Thomas Keller’s Buchon. Through these and others, as she grew more serious about baking, Kelli found quality ingredients really do make a difference: “When you’re dabbling, you don’t realize the brand of coco powder you use changes everything.”

It was last Fall when she received a call from Brian, the chef at Ember, telling her about the available attachment next door to his new restaurant. After marinating on the possibility, Kelli decided to go for it. She enlisted friends and family, utilizing their expertise to help with tasks like steering through hoops of a the build out and picking out decor (including a metal table top from Ruby Rose, pictured above, bottom left). Now, her dream is a reality and her childhood nickname-Sweet Pea-sits above 1200 East Grand Ave, Suite 102 in Arroyo Grande.
You can still find Kelli at the Farmers' Markets in AG or at her shop:
Tuesday 8-5
Wednesday-Friday 8-1
Saturday 8-5
or by chance, if her doors are open.

Sweet Pea is full of amazing baked goods, including gluten free items (macarons, gf chocoobloc, granola and monster cookies, to name a few)! She also does dessert bars for weddings and events, stop by her shop or give her a call for more information.