Star-shaped sprinkles float on the freshly whipped waves of cream spiraling above a Pacific Sunrise—a soda made from orange juice, passionfruit puree, and peach puree.
Sitting outside with cars passing behind me, the soda's deep orangey-pink matches the candy powder drifting next to the rainbow of stars. I break through the array with a squish, pushing a thick straw in to take a sip. Pleasantly surprised, the tangy-sweet beverage tastes of fruit and bubbles that make me giggle.
- Photo Courtesy Of Ryan Bello
- OLD FASHIONED Bumble B Soda Company in Morro Bay is a twist on the soda shops of the past, crafting sodas to order in almost any flavor you could desire with a little bit of whimsy sprinkled on top.
Pacific Sunrise is Bumble B Soda Company's "starter soda," co-owner Marissa Bello says with a laugh. Designed for the palates of both adults and children, the sodas, shakes, and other creations coming out of Bumble B take patrons down a whimsical path of flighty fun.
"The whole thing is to meet your grown-up palate but to take you back to the magicalness of being a kiddo," Marissa says from a safe social distance. "Nostalgia spurred us."
When Marissa and her husband, Ryan Bello, were offered the space on Main Street in Morro Bay, they had no idea what they were going to do with it. They had just turned 50 years old and were trying to figure out how they wanted to live out the rest of their days. Ryan owned various businesses over the years doing manual labor like painting. Marissa was a massage therapist and an esthetician. They were ready for something new.
"We looked at each other and wondered what did we love growing up and what are our fond memories," she says. "It was just remembering the fun ice cream places and remembering how everyone used to get together."
"What brings us smiles and what can bring smiles to other people?" Ryan adds.
- Photo Courtesy Of April Bodine
- PACKED WITH DOUGH April Bodine of The Dough Connection stuffs Rice Krispies treats with her safe-to-eat no-bake chocolate chip cookie dough. In February, The Dough Company and Bumble B Soda Company celebrated their new partnership with a grand opening at the shop in Morro Bay.
Both of them grew up in San Luis Obispo County, spending time as residents of Morro Bay, Atascadero, and other area cities. Marissa says they used to go to Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour in San Luis Obispo. They talked about old-school soda shops and how much fun they had, the community those establishments built, and the memories people left with.
"They were really popular during our parents' and grandparents' age, but they started to go extinct, but they were a place for the community to gather around," Ryan said. "There was no other soda shop around—ice cream/soda shop. I looked all over California and I looked all over the county, and they were just really rare. ... This is something that's going away, but I didn't want it to go away."
- Photo Courtesy Of Ryan Bello
- TOPPED WITH FUN Bumble B's sodas and shakes are designed to put a smile on your face.
So they opened Bumble B Soda Company in June 2020, making sodas and other fun stuff to order. Carbonated water is mixed with the purees and syrups of your choice—or some magical combination Marissa thought up in the middle of the night (Hello, Pacific Sunrise!)—and topped with housemade whipped cream and a variety of candy powders or sprinkles.
The Cherry Blossom is a cherry vanilla soda with cherry gummies and sprinkles that resemble cherry blossoms: "It's like creating a picture, if you know what I mean," Marissa says.
"They almost sell themselves as they go out the door," Ryan says.
The Bellos said that opening the shop almost didn't happen, though. Bumble B was ready to open its doors right as COVID-19 hit.
"We looked within ourselves, and we said we can do this. We can do this. And it was a ghost town," Ryan says. "Once we were deep into summer, the line was out the door, people were bustling everywhere."
They didn't have a grand opening until February 2021, when Bumble B Soda Company joined forces with The Dough Connection—a cookie dough company brought to the world by San Luis Obispo's April Bodine. Now, Bumble B offers her cookie dough creations alongside and in their ice cream fantasies. Take the recent special, which they name "All the Buzz" as it sits on the table in front of me.
Loaded down with crumbled bits of Heath Toffee Bar, the whipped cream is also drizzled with chocolate syrup and topped with a scoop of decadent Mocha Toffee Chip cookie dough. Underneath that cream, though, is where things get really good. Bumble B dropped a shot of Top Dog Coffee Bar (they're neighbors) espresso into a traditional chocolate shake. It's love at first sip. And the best part is that it isn't too sweet.
- Photo Courtesy Of April Bodine
- COOKIE HEAVEN The Dough Connection serves up classic and fantastical cookie doughs in quarts, pops, cookie cups, and with ice cream shakes.
"Some people really, really love sweet soda. Some people don't," Marissa says. "Because they're all hand-crafted and made to order, we can adjust for your palate."
Bodine and Marissa found each other on Instagram. Although there's some debate as to who reached out to whom, the two women say it was random happenstance that led to some casual Instagram account stalking, and eventually, they just sat down and talked about their goals: To create desserts that are fantastic fun and make people smile.
"Good, clean fun for the whole family," Bodine says.
"It's over the top, it's very whimsical, it's very Instagrammable," Marissa adds.
"Nostalgia 2.0," Bodine continues with a laugh.
So they joined "sugar forces" for the community.
The Dough Connection is a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bodine says. She was a teacher, but with two young children who were suddenly at home all the time and needed help, she transitioned to staying at home.
- Photo By Camillia Lanham
- SUGAR HIGH All the Buzz is a classic chocolate shake with a shot of Top Dog Coffee Bar espresso dropped in it, topped with housemade whip, chocolate syrup, toffee bar pieces, and a scoop of mocha toffee chip cookie dough.
"I started pandemic baking for sure," Bodine says. "I always loved baking and so for my mental health, I started doing this weekly 'I'm going to try a new recipe' that I didn't have time to do before."
She posted pictures of her creations, and the response was bigger than she expected. Bodine baked more and more, family and friends started picking them up, and all of sudden, she was starting a business. Her no-bake, safe-to-eat cookie dough sandwiches are what did it, she said. You can get dough in sandwich form, as a cake pop, or packed in ice cream containers.
The dough flavors come in classics like chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, and oatmeal. But she also makes doughs like Oreo Explosion and stuffs Rice Krispies treats with chocolate chip cookie dough.
"I was always that person that if I made cookies, it's so I could eat the dough first," she says. "I don't even care about the cookies that come after."
Together, Bumble B and The Dough Connection are aiming to make people happy.
"We always say that this is more than a dough creation or a shake. We try to create an experience for people," Marissa says. "We love to know the people that come in, we love to know our local community. ... We really try to have that connection." Δ
Editor Camillia Lanham is swimming in passionfruit puree. Send samples to firstname.lastname@example.org.