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La Mesa shop brings pudding to the masses

Toran Grays, owner of Extraordinary Banana Pudding in La Mesa.

Toran Grays knew he had something special in his great-grandmother’s banana pudding recipe. It had been passed down through generations in his family, and when he inherited it, he realized how high the demand for it was, just among his family and friends, and it inspired him to think bigger.

You might say that, for Grays, the proof was in the pudding.

“I started with one flavor,” he says. “[My great-grandmother] started with banana only. I experimented with all the other flavors. Now I do 25 different flavors.”

A treat from Extraordinary Banana Pudding in La Mesa.

Grays is the owner of Extraordinary Banana Pudding in La Mesa, a newly-opened pudding shop that specializes in all things pudding: think pudding-filled cupcakes and cakes, and even pudding tacos in flavors like French vanilla, cheesecake, coconut, lemon, red velvet and, of course, banana.

Open in La Mesa since mid-March, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Grays says his business is doing so well, he’ll be opening a second location in Las Vegas in August.

He says coronavirus hasn’t affected his shop the way it has others, since his business model was mainly pre-packaged puddings offered to go.

“We’re thriving through it. It didn’t affect us whatsoever. DoorDash does delivery for us. Everyone just pulls up and comes in,” he explains. “We do curbside or they come in and pick out what they like because it’s already pre-packaged, so you can grab what you want. It’s just to-go, everything’s to go.”

A native San Diegan, Grays says the struggles of opening up his own business haven’t been out of the norm: “There’s always little things: trying to get the staff in line and make sure they’re able to crank out as much as we need. Trying to fill the demand of the public. Sometimes we’re really busy and sometimes we aren’t. So it just depends … It was all normal stuff that I needed to get done anyway. Normal stuff that I had to go through.”

And when it comes to the extra support he’s received as a Black business owner due to the Black Lives Matter movement, Grays has a more philosophical take on it.

“Definitely, I’m getting more support than any time before. It’s been unfortunate for a long time, stuff has been happening like this,” he says, referring to police brutality in the Black community. “So we needed something to change as well. I just think everyone deserves to have a fair right and a fair share to life. And that’s just how I feel. We’re all human. No one can control what race they are, so I don’t know why people tend to act like that. But I just think we all need to get better as a world, care for each other and stuff will get better. As a unit, we need to care for other people. And that’s the problem right now: everyone’s for themselves, everyone has their own agenda. And we all need to have the same agenda.”

Extraordinary Banana Pudding is located at 8257 El Paso St. in La Mesa. For more information, visit extraordinarybananapudding.com.


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