Susan Zara has never been able to resist the lure of a kitchen.
"I always loved to bake," she said. "Even as a kid I used to play in the kitchen and make cookies and sweet breads."
A school friend gave Zara her first cookbook in 1971, and she still has it. It's been torn and taped, and shows many signs of use and love.
Now the owner of SuZara's Kitchen in Beaufort has decided it's time to turn the page to the next chapter of her 42 years of working in food service. Zara is closing her retail location, which also houses Be My Guest stationery store, at 1211 Newcastle St. in Newcastle Square on Friday and plans to focus on catering, writing a cookbook and relaxing in semi-retirement.
"It's time for me to slow down and take some time for myself," she said.
Zara began her career working in bars, waiting tables and doing other similar jobs.
"I worked in restaurants in college, and I would go back in the kitchen and say, 'Can I bake up some cookies or something for dessert?'" she said. "I always managed to find my way back into the kitchen."
She moved on to running small cafes, catering out of her home, and operating an award-winning bakery in Florida and another in Boston. Zara moved to Beaufort to be closer to her parents and began selling wholesale to local businesses seven years ago.
Five years ago, she opened SuZara's at 1103 Boundary St. Within three months, she realized the 500-square-foot building was too small for customers who clamored for lunch and other options. So together with Patsy Collin and her Be My Guest business, Zara moved into the 2,500-square-foot space they've shared since.
"I've loved it, and it's really been fun," she said. "We've had the most amazing clientele. The customers have been amazing and loyal. ... I had no idea it would become as successful as it did."
SuZara's and Be My Guest are having a blow-out sale of everything -- including furniture and pots and pans -- from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
For SuZara information: http://on.fb.me/1pWb66i, 843-379-2160
For Be My Guest information: http://on.fb.me/1jUEKmE, 843-379-0284
SuZara information: http://on.fb.me/1pWb66i, 843-379-2160
Be My Guest information: http://on.fb.me/1jUEKmE, 843-379-0284
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.