There is no doubt that the outdoors is what brings most people to Moab. Most just come to visit, but some end up staying for good. Wes Shannon and Christie Pennellope Decaria, the owners of the Love Muffin Café, are two that stayed.
Shannon came for the mountain biking and Decaria for the climbing.
“I had never been to Moab. Just packed up and moved here and started working the next day,” said Shannon, who stayed at the bike shop for about six years.
“I came to Moab 14 years ago. I was just coming down for the summer to do some climbing at Indian Creek and to take a break before starting med school,” Decaria said. “I decided I needed an extended break from school and it kept getting extended.”
Decaria worked as a barista and manager at restaurants around town. She met Shannon when she started running the coffee bar at the Chili Pepper Bike Shop.
Having her own restaurant was something that Decaria had been thinking about for a long time, but it wasn’t until after she and Shannon had their two sons and bought a house that they decided to take the leap.
“It was pretty stressful but she wanted to make it happen,” Shannon said.
“I wanted to do something to keep us here,” Decaria said.
So they started looking for space. They knew that they wanted to be on Main Street, but it was a challenge to find the right location with enough space.
During several research trips to New York City – to see how restaurants there did it – the pair decided that maybe they didn’t need as much space as they had originally thought.
One of the places that they stopped to eat was a tiny, 12-foot by 12-foot sandwich shop. The entire space may have only been a little bigger than a prison cell, but that didn’t stop the shop from making good enough food to have a line down the street.
“They were basically pumping out food,” Shannon said. “We realized we didn’t need much space to do what we were going to do.”
Shannon had always felt that there wasn’t a great option in town for breakfast burritos and spicy breakfast and lunch dishes. So that was the niche that he and Decaria aimed to fill.
“There’s a lot of breakfast places in town and we just wanted to slip in-between everyone and find our niche,” Shannon said.
During her time as a barista in Moab, Decaria had developed quite a following, something that certainly didn’t hurt when the couple opened Love Muffin in 2008, Shannon said.
“Coffee is such a drug, you see the same people everyday,” Decaria said. “Serving coffee is something I really enjoy because you really get to know people.”
Decaria’s following, along with the Love Muffin’s unique menu, led to the restaurant having a strong customer base very shortly after it opened. Those initial numbers stayed steady for about the first year and a half, then exploded, said Shannon.
“It’s kind of weird to see it grow. You think your doing good and got a handle on what your doing. But then with the power of the internet latches on and goes to another level,” he said.
Decaria and Shannon believe that a big factor in the Love Muffin’s success has been their focus on the food.
“Everything we serve on the menu we make from scratch,” Decaria said. “It’s not anything you buy in bulk.”
Customers seem to notice the difference.
“It’s awesome,” said Jacob Walsh of the Wescial Burrito, the most popular item on Love Muffin’s menu.
“Most breakfast burritos you get taste the same, this one has a ton of flavor,” said Walsh, who was visiting from Denver.
“Pennellope comes in and makes everything from scratch,” said Amy Daniken, a Love Muffin employee who has know Decaria for around 10 years. “She and Wes, are foodies so they know what they like.”
And that menu is a constantly evolving project.
Unlike most of the restaurants in Moab, Love Muffin closes for a month in the middle of summer, not winter.
During their hiatus Decaria and Shannon travel with their sons around the country and bring some of the flavors they discover back with them to incorporate them into their menu.
“We work so hard through the busy season you just have to step back and take a break,” Shannon said. “Then we come back and stay open through the winter to give locals that other option.”
But despite the success of the Love Muffin, and several offers for franchises, Decaria and Shannon like keeping the café the way it is.
“I’m a little superstitious about it. You always hear that when you begin to expand is when you start to fail,” Shannon said.
“I like keeping it small and intimate,” Decaria said. “Knowing that what we put out is great.”