By Pedro Maycock
Café La Florence is turning 30 years old after first opening its doors in August of 1989. It is a perfect example of a family owned business that is still thriving today in the Bahamas, serving visitors and locals.
Café La Florence is a café located in Treasure Cay, specializing in coffees, pastries and breakfast items. Three of her children helped run the café; Tara, Amanda and Templeton. In addition, she has also employed her grandchildren.
Mrs. Florence Sawyer’s humble beginnings started when she was working in a hotel, raising her children alongside her husband. At that time, baking was just a hobby, something she did to provide her children with evening desserts.
When Tara returned from selling the baked goods, she told her mom that there were more orders for the next day. Eventually, Mrs. Sawyer was not only catering to the Marina guests, but the students at Tara’s school whose sweet teeth eagerly anticipated the mouthwatering pastries.
After working for the hotel for nearly 17 years, Mrs. Sawyer decided that after her three-week vacation, she would not return to the hotel. When she gave her notice, some of the hotel employees stressed their concern, they were doubtful that she could earn ample income from selling cookies and coffee.
After leaving the hotel, she had plans to open the café, however, she had to persevere through financial challenges before she was able to open to the public. Lacking in funds to repair a vacant storefront, she had to borrow funds, make negotiations, and receive help from carpenters who she had to pay in installments.
On the first day, the café had a line of customers patiently waiting. Within two hours of her official opening, she was sold out of everything.
Café La Florence is now well known for its cinnamon buns, with some customers praising it as one of the best in the world. One customer left a review on TripAdvisor stating, “Love, love the cinnamon rolls – the pre-made sandwiches are good, but when they are made fresh, you can’t find better.”
Another review from TripAdvisor stated, “Best place and bakery. Florence’s is known for the best cinnamon rolls in the world. They were[the best]
However, the famous cinnamon bun recipe was not created prior to 1991, “I made cinnamon buns and everything I started, I started with a dozen. I prebaked them [the cinnamon buns] that night and then that morning, I finished baking them. Two people bought them [each purchasing 6]. Now they are world famous.”
One thing is clear, Mrs. Sawyer revels in what she does, stating, “I like to meet different people of different cultures, so that is why I like this business – I enjoy working with different people. It has trickled down to my children and grandchildren, because they are the same [as they also enjoy meeting people of different cultures].”
Her passion for her café has led her to treat each customer as a special individual. Often, she can recall the names of customers and what they do for a living. This is one of countless aspects that has allowed her establishment to thrive and survive for 30 years.
“Hospitality is not a jacket that you put on when you come to work. You wear this jacket at all times.”
That burning passion has encouraged customers to make repeat visits and to encourage their family members to visit her establishment when they vacation in Abaco. As Mrs. Sawyer shared, “We have people that come, their mother came, their grandmother came, their grandchildren come – My grandfather told me that he came here four years ago.”
Mrs. Florence attributed her success to things such as constant prayers before starting her day at the café, “this place will be a place of serenity, peace and quiet”. When asked if she has a message for aspiring entrepreneurs, “if you have a dream do not sit on it”.