It’s a popular theme now in books and movies to create a prequel to an already successful story, and now Mary Frese, of Clayton’s Coffee Shop fame, is doing just that in her newest venture Clayton’s Bakery and Bistro, located just a block down the street at 849 Orange Avenue. The original Clayton’s (979 Orange Ave at the corner of Tenth), which includes the 1940’s themed diner, opened 75 years ago, later adding on the Mexican take-out (known by locals as Clayton’s MTO). Mary is the third owner of the diner and has been revitalizing it since she took it over in 2008. With keen attention to detail, Mary has refurbished it with authentic details found on eBay, like old tear drop speakers and Hamilton Beach teal blenders for the old-fashioned milkshakes. Keeping the nostalgic menu in place with burgers, French fries, turkey dinners, and homemade pies, she also started offering healthy options like acai bowls and smoothies.
The new bakery pays homage to the early 1900s with a simplistic approach to food, like breakfast pastries, homemade cookies and pink lemonade, naked cakes decorated with minimal frosting, and sugared lemon slices that melt in your mouth. “This is the bakery that could have come before Clayton’s and we were inspired by this time period when life was simple, and people focused on family and comfort food,” says Mary, who has lived in Coronado for 30 years.
It’s a small, compatible group of business partners in this new bakery venture, including Chelsea Schoeni, who started working for Mary at her first restaurant in Coronado, Beach Grill and Deli. Other partners include Mary’s brother Josh Butner, a retired Navy SEAL, her fiancée Andrew Prouse, Chelsea’s husband, Steve Schoeni, a retired Navy SEAL, and friends James and Shawnee Oliver. “We are especially grateful for the unwavering support from the men in our lives to make this dream a reality,” emphasize Mary and Chelsea.
A coffee aficionado, Chelsea has lived in Coronado since first grade and was happy to help make her mark under Mary’s tutelage, starting at age 14, at a place where she grew up eating. As Mary and Chelsea have worked together off and on through the years, they have developed an instinctive rapport, so they have the same passionate vision on logistics, design, food, and customer service. Their skills complement each other, and they see the benefits of being from different generations to create a well-rounded experience.
This new venture has been a long-standing dream to create their own unique space. “We have infused love into every detail of this new Clayton’s Bakery and Bistro. We wanted it to be a beautiful and comfortable space that offered delicious food,” they both concur. Through the years, whenever they were travelling, they sought out cute cafes and took notes to be able to replicate the culmination of their ideas. They selected every color, dish, the copper ceiling tiles, and even handpicked the marble slabs from the stone yard. This is truly their own creation and the passion is evident as they light up when talking about it. “I always trust that things are going to work out and I grab an opportunity when it presents itself,” Mary comments. Earlier this year, she opened Clayton’s Galley, a waterfront gourmet sandwich shop and market located in the Marina Cortez on Harbor Island (1880 Harbor Drive, San Diego).
Mary isn’t a trained chef but learned the art of good food from her granny Franny and her mom Kay, from Knoxville, Tennessee. Her granny was sophisticated for a small-town girl and her mom had a distinctive flair for decorating and design. Mary vividly remembers her fifth birthday, which was in February, when her mom made it completely themed for the occasion with red and white hearts and flowers. That love of decorating is infused in her soul to this day as she still recreates all the holidays at Clayton’s with accents on the aprons, chalkboards and dolly bows.
Most of her recipes were handed down from her “kinfolk” as they are called in the south, and the new bakery menu continues that tradition with shared recipes. The chocolate chip cookie and sugar cookie recipes are from Mary’s mom. The spritzer cookie comes from her granny’s holiday tradition, and their famous apple pie recipe is from her friend Kirsten’s mom. The pizzelle cookies, that are sure to be highlight at the new bakery, are from Chelsea’s mom. “I feel like everyone’s mom has a great recipe for something,” laughs Mary. Her executive pastry chef is Elena Palma, and comes with her own repertoire of delicious recipes, like scratch bagels. She has helped take Clayton’s sweet and savory treats to the next level and will keep elevating them as the bakery continues to expand.
The new menu starts with Early Morning offerings including sweet and savory crepes, frittatas, porridge, breakfast sandwiches, sweet and savory toasts, homemade bagels, and seasonal quiches. Mid-Day delights include artisan sandwiches, made with freshly baked breads and domestic and imported meats and cheeses, hearty and healthy bowls, southern and seafood po’ boys, specialty wraps, seasonal salads, and fromage and meat boards. Made from scratch soups will be matzo ball soup, French onion and soup of the day. Supper servings will feature seafood, poultry, beef, pasta, stew and garden-grown main courses. Most importantly, diners can finish with a decadent dessert or fromage board.
Chelsea is a coffee connoisseur and plans to elevate the coffee and tea experience, which will feature Café Moto coffee, but focus on French roast blends. Her favorite piece of equipment is the one-of-a-kind copper Mavam espresso machine that sits in the front window. “We plan to focus on the beauty of coffee and tea with Turkish, French Press and matcha tea blends,” says Chelsea.
The new kitchen will also serve as a wholesale bakery for all three of her locations. Production will continue all through the night and they will bake an array of breads, pastries, muffins, whole cakes and pies. They will continue to offer their signature pies such as the most popular apple, and chocolate, berry, cherry, coconut and banana cream, along with rotating specialty pies. The donut menu will expand into even more creative specialty flavors, including the new signature Raspberry Lemon Sour donut hole. I was delighted to learn that new biscotti flavors are coming, since I am a huge fan of these perfectly crispy cookies to accompany my coffee. Packaged baked goods will also be offered as well as mini cookies by the handful.
One of the featured items will be the charcuterie and fromage boards that will pair nicely with fresh baguettes and wine, beer and champagne selections. They are partnering with Mission Brewery to create a Bistro House IPA. Boards will be available to eat on site or order ahead for parties or to take to concerts in the park. You will be able to customize your market bag and pick it up on your way to an event at a friend’s or date night at the beach. “We are trying to think ahead and meet the needs of the residents and tourists,” says Mary.
“Our goal is to create a warm, inviting atmosphere where guests, who become like family, enjoy simple and seasonal comfort foods. We have put together an incredible team who work well together to accomplish this,” they concur. “We were able to put all the wedges of the pie together to create this incredible team who bring a vast array of experiences. We can open our doors with confidence knowing we have a great team beside us. Each partner’s unique perspective has helped form this concept which we are excited to share with the community,” comments Mary.
She is grateful to Coronado residents for the love they have shown Clayton’s through the years. When asked what her favorite part of this bakery is so far, she said, “It is how the people have come together. Friends and family have rallied to make this happen and we took a leap of faith together to make this a reality. I feel blessed to have such an amazing team.”
Clayton’s Bakery and Bistro will be open daily from 6 am to 11 pm on weeknights and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. The last hour of the day will be dessert and fromage service, rather like a reverse happy hour.
They have all their approvals and are just putting the finishing touches in place. They plan to serve pastries and coffee starting on Thursday, July 4, with full service coming soon. The wait is almost over to enter this vintage inspired bakery which promises to tantalize your senses with delectable smells and tastes.