Name: Maegen Loring
Business: The Neon Carrot
What they said then:
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In May 2010, Jeff and Maegen Loring — after shuttering The Park the previous year — opened a new restaurant, The Neon Carrot, on South Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo.
The Tribune’s Ticket magazine reviewed the casual deli-esque eatery the next month, reporting that the Lorings previously expected to focus on catering when they closed The Park.
“My old logo for the catering company was a carrot and one day I just said to Jeff, ‘I still really want to have a big neon carrot in the window,’ ” Maegen Loring said.
The menu attempts to “express the season” by changing frequently in response to local farmers markets.
Open Monday through Friday for breakfast and dinner, they began a Friday evening happy hour with a themed menu each week. The couple also continued catering.
“We wanted a place that was vibrant with a good sense of community,” said Loring, “and I think we’ve got that.”
What she says now:
After more than a year, The Neon Carrot has found a “conscientious and conscious” community of customers, Loring said.
“It’s an unlikely location,” she added. “Everyone thinks we should be downtown. There’s not a lot of restaurants on this side of town, but there’s a lot of businesses.”
The owners expected those employees to be the bulk of their clientele, but she’s found it’s become a gathering place for retired folks, lunching ladies, the bicycling crowd and those running errands.
The large community tables in the dining room comprise about half its seating, which is about 36 total. This draws in groups and families, while encouraging mingling between smaller parties.
Friday happy hours have been a steady hit. With an e-mail list of 1,600 customers, Jeff Loring sends a weekly newsletter each Thursday to advertise Friday’s theme and feed a personal connection. His wife said it has garnered an “almost-cultish following” with the over-30 crowd.
The restaurant has eight full- and part-time employees, she added. To overcome a sense of “us and them” between those employees and the 40 on-call catering workers, all rotate jobs to work both sides of the business.
Last summer was slow, allowing her to focus on the peak catering season. But Loring found this summer has been busy.
“As soon as summer hit, our business peaked,” she said. Tourists have found them on the Internet, while families and others off in the summer stop in.
To manage her overwhelming workload, Loring has hired a catering manager, Damon Miele, and a kitchen manager, Jed Lachance.
“You never know what a business is going to be until you get the door open,” Maegen Loring said. “It has a life of its own.”