LJ Beaners Bakery and Cafe: Building Community, One Cupcake at a Time

Think Currituck More By This Author

LJ2

If there’s one thing Rebecca Miller learned growing up with 10 brothers and sisters, it was a sense of community.

“We always had a friend, someone to play with,” Rebecca said. “We could confide in each other.”

Her mother was a music teacher and taught piano lessons while her father held down two jobs.

“We thought we had everything. Looking back, we didn’t… but we thought we did.”

Rebecca wants to bring that same sense of family and community to LJ Beaners Bakery & Cafe, now open in Moyock.

“We wanted to bring something to Currituck that makes people feel good,” she said. “We’re a Christian family. We give a lot back to the community, and if we can help in any way, we will.”

LJ6BAKING A BUSINESS FROM SCRATCH

Rebecca started her bakery business from home as a way to test out the market.

It gained momentum thanks to positive word of mouth and a growing following on Facebook.

“It helped that people knew us,” she said. “I’m very involved in the schools and community, and because my husband is a business owner in Currituck, businesses knew us... and Facebook was my friend.”

After a year of selling from home, she and her husband, Sam Miller, purchased a parcel of land on busy Survey Road, just off Caratoke Highway. The parcel sits across from the Lakeview subdivision and stays active with traffic from Eagle Creek and Moyock Middle School.

“Taking my kids to school, I saw that the lot was for sale by owner. I told Sam ‘I think I’ve found the spot.’ I knew it was a good location.”

The property included a house and a garage on an acre of land. That garage, where landscaping equipment was once fixed, became the bakery.

Sam, who is also a builder, transformed the space into a comfortable gathering place where specialty coffees, pastries, baked goods and sandwiches (named for family members) are served. He also created the large parking lot and plans to add an outdoor play area for children.

“(Sam) has been my biggest supporter. I couldn’t have done it without him.”

58662294_609450196200190_4046690616896126976_nLOVE, LOSS AND INSPIRATION 

Rebecca grew up in upstate New York. After her sister Terri joined the Navy and ended up in Virginia Beach, Rebecca was among the family members who followed her to Hampton Roads.

In 2007, after her husband took a building job in Currituck County, the family relocated to North Carolina. Rebecca missed the wide open spaces of upstate New York. And she was ready for a change of scenery to help her deal with a huge personal loss.

The business is named for Rebecca’s sister, Laura Joy Bean Cowles, who passed away in 2006 after battling breast cancer.

On the LJ Beaners website, Rebecca describes her sister as “an amazing person who never stopped living her life as if it was over. Her tenacity, humor, patience, kindness and most of all, her love for God and family has forever impacted my life.”

The business is dedicated to Laura’s memory and reflects her sister’s passion for baking.

“Growing up, we would always bake cookies with my mom. When Laura got cancer, I would help her with her family and we’d always bake. It was our therapy - it was like ‘hey, let’s bake!’”

“We talked about what she would do when she got better. She thought about opening a soup and sandwich shop with baked goods. We were going to do it there in our hometown, but then things changed. My husband knew [her loss] was heavy on my heart and suggested I sell baked goods out of our home.”

Rebecca’s other siblings are split between New York and Hampton Roads. Her sister Terri, now retired from the Navy, owns pizza trucks and Bodacious Bakehouse, a restaurant in Virginia Beach.

55875387_592816684530208_5501995918133559296_nSATISFYING CURRITUCK'S SWEET TOOTH

“This is a lot different than running a bakery from home because you have employees and you have to keep track of your costs and operations.”

Even though she hasn’t advertised much, Rebecca said that business is good at LJ Beaners.

“We really haven’t marketed this place a whole lot and I am starting to do it now. We’re going to put up a sign under Eagle Creek and have a mural (facing the highway) painted on the building. I don’t want it to get too big too fast.”

But the business is already growing.

LJ Beaners went from ‘to go’ breakfast and baked goods to adding lunch just a few weeks after opening. Lunch came so quickly because of public demand. Since opening, her staff has grown.

There’s also a possibility she’ll be adding ice cream to the menu.

Lots of people have asked about renting the space and Rebecca is going to start offering after hours rentals, with coffee and baked goods available.

LJ Beaners is even supplying baked goods to a few local restaurants and businesses, and has recently started offering pre-ordered lunches to staff at Currituck County schools.

If you’re curious about what’s cooking at LJ Beaners, all of the menus are available on their website and hard copies can be picked up at the Currituck Outer Banks Welcome Center in Moyock.

2LJ1SUCCESS IS JUST THE ICING ON THE CAKE

Rebecca Miller said that working with Currituck County to her business started was a pleasant experience.

“We have had no issues,” she said. “Everyone has been fantastic.”

What’s her advice for those who are thinking of launching their own business? Before bringing a business to Currituck, Rebecca said, “You have to make sure there is a need.”

And while it’s become clear that there’s a definite need in Currituck County for things like raspberry cream puffs, sprinkle-dipped cake pops and red velvet cupcakes, Rebecca doesn’t let the bakery’s sweet success go to her head.

“My main thing is that I want to remember what my purpose is... LJ Beaners can be a money maker, but that’s not what this is about.”

Rebecca makes sure that her business gives back at every opportunity, whether that means selling Currituck High School Booster Club discount cards or helping to raise money to fight colorectal cancer.

“We donate when we see a viable need. Obviously we need to make money to keep the place afloat, but we are not dependent on it.”

“LJ Beaners is about bringing community together, creating a place for girlfriends to have coffee and chat and a place for kids to come. Our mission here, and in life, is to spread a little love.”

LJBeaners Bakery and Cafe is located at 155 Survey Road in Moyock, NC. You can contact them by phone at (252) 435-6580 or online at ljbeaners.com.

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