We first blogged about Brown Butter Sea Salt Cookies in August of 2012. We had stopped off at a little bakery called Brown Butter Cookie Co. in the small town of Cayucos on the coast of central California. We grabbed coffee and a bag of the house speciality cookies - to go. As we drove along the coast in the fresh sea air and against the backdrop of cresting white caps, I took my first bite. I felt as if the salt spray was melting in my mouth. I was literally tasting the environment of sand and sea and balmy coastal air on a brilliant blue sky day. I was hooked.
Now, six years later, Brown Butter Cookie Co is still thriving, and their amazing hand-rolled cookies are still absolutely divine. The owners, sisters Christa and Traci Hozi, have expanded their business and added various new flavors. They have also opened a retail shop in Paso Robles. We love seeing their success. But not every small business owner has been so fortunate through the last decade.
When we first visited Brown Butter Cookie Co. in 2012, our country was in the early years of recovery from the “Great Recession,” an economic down-turn which officially started in December of 2007 and extended through June of 2009. That year the national unemployment rate was approaching 10%. The recovery was gradual but steady, boosted by low interest rates. By the end of 2015, unemployment was down to 5%. This year (2018) the unemployment rate will likely average 4%. Some economists say the recovery is now complete. But for many who lost a home or a business, the loss has been permanent.
The Great Recession was particularly hard on small business owners. Despite the fact that interest rates were extremely low, the process of securing financing was difficult. And as the public tightened wallets, competition from the lower prices offered by large franchises and “big box” stores increased. Many small businesses were forced to close.
Even in the best of times, franchise operations in cities and urban areas often swallow up the smaller, one-of-a-kind establishments. When I’m in L.A., for example, I’ll opt for Starbucks over the “mom and pop” coffee shop across the street because I know exactly what I’ll be getting at Starbucks. But in the out-lying small towns and rural areas, “mom and pop” businesses appear to be thriving again, which is wonderful news for everyone! After all, family owned specialty businesses with their own unique offerings are the heartbeat of every small town across the west.
From Charlotte’s vintage jewelry, to the hamburger that can only be had at the Burger Barn, to the hand-rolled, hand-made brown butter sea salt cookies - the products of these enterprises are the hallmark of individuality and self-expression, and goodness. Small town living has a way of bringing out what is exceptional and unique in each of us. Everyone has a special gift to share. The opportunity to create your own enterprise with your own special signature is one of the great perks of rural living. And local residents typically welcome any new establishment with open arms.
Meanwhile, we get to be the beneficiaries of the amazing gifts that are shared by these wonderful entrepreneurs. We are in paradise here in the rural west, and it turns out to be very kinesthetic. Yum! Yum!