Carina Comer has had to overcome a lot of obstacles in her life. But none of them have prevented her from pursuing her passion, helping others, and perhaps most importantly, making delicious pastries.
When she was just nine months old, Comer had a brain tumor removed, leaving her blind in one eye and with limited vision in the other. At age seven, the tumor returned, forcing her to undergo radiation treatments.
It was about this time that Comer discovered her love for baking, assisting her mom in the kitchen. Her impaired vision didn’t prevent her from finding and measuring ingredients.
Soon, Comer started making baked goods and selling them to raise money for the children’s hospital where she was treated. She estimates from 2nd grade to the end of high school, she raised and donated $22,000 worth of toys for the hospital, not to mention all the baked goods she delivered to patients and nurses.
After high school, Comer attended culinary school. But most professional bakers didn’t take her seriously, assuming she couldn’t keep up because of her vision. Undeterred, Comer earned an MBA with the hopes of opening her own bakery.
Today, that dream is a reality. Comer owns and operates Carina’s Bakery in Beaverton, Oregon.
She employs five people, including three who also have impaired vision. In fact, hiring people with disabilities was part of Comer’s goal for opening her own bakery.
“It was hard to find anyone who’d give me a chance,” says Lora Ward, one of Comer’s employees. “Carina did.”
Both Comer and Ward have guide dogs who hang around near the front counter of the bakery. The bakery also utilizes receipts with large print and has signs posted letting customers know to give employees a few extra seconds to confirm their order.
But with one taste of the pastries at Carina’s Bakery, none of the customers seem to care. Comer uses both Scandinavian recipes and those she has created on her own. While the work is difficult at times, Comer doesn’t let anything stop her, just as she’s done her entire life.
“I’ve been in the kitchen since I was five, and people didn’t believe when I told them I was going to have a bakery,” says Comer. “Perseverance and determination. Those traits run deep in my family.”