Bee Mayhew

. October 31, 2019.
Photo Credit: Leisa Thompson Photography.
Photo Credit: Leisa Thompson Photography.

Owner of beezy’s café

By Nick Roumel

“Mom Steps Away, But the Kid Will Be Fine.”

Eleven years ago, Bee Mayhew, a 30-year-old single mother, opened beezy’s café. She likened it to having another child. Indeed, it bears her name.

A marriage and two more human babies later, Bee Roll is stepping away from daily operations. But that brash adolescent beezy was raised well, and she will continue to thrive as Ypsilanti’s local food and general coolness hub— now with Jesse Arehart-Jacobs at the helm.

I had the privilege of meeting Bee for a 2009 feature in Current. I learned about her latest plans from an introspective Facebook post, and caught up with her to learn more.

What was your vision when you opened beezy’s?
I thought I was setting myself up for the rest of my life— a rootedness that I thought would be the answer to my existential woes, healing through work. I had more strategies lined up for expansion, for developing my crew to try different things… the cafe was where I would build my life and nurture.

There’s a lot of power in tenacity combined with naivete, and honestly, I don’t think beezy’s would be what it is without my innocent gumption in 2008, or my fierce desire to make things right by people.

What changed?
Getting married and having two more kids wasn’t in my vision! So sharing my kids and myself with every aspect of running the show became the norm, but more behind the scenes in ways I didn’t want to be. I began moving more into working shifts again as the kids entered school, and I love the work of cooking and leadership, but found myself never being wholly present— at home with the kids I’d be tackling work issues and at work I was often wrestling with child-rearing concerns, so the vision began to shift.

Part of me wants to throw myself back into the fire of daily operations. I love the pace and in-the-moment problem solving, but I also want to see my kids grow into themselves— something I missed with my elder child because I was immersed in building beezy’s, and trying to make sense of the business growing rapidly as well as radical changes in my personal life.

Why is it time to step away?
I built a very successful little business, and it feels weird to step out of it now, but the last couple years have shifted my perspective and motivations to a point where I keep hitting a proverbial wall— and all the reasons I started it don’t match my current relationship with it; and my own reconciling of life is the core of my beezy’s vision. It’s time to let someone else shepherd it to another level because my personal quest has unlocked internal achievements I never knew possible.

I was big on rocks and deep roots, big things 11 years ago; I wanted an anchor. Now I have a lighthouse and it turns out that’s more my style.

What are you most proud of?
I’d be hard-pressed not to simply say: it’s survival. A small restaurant in a town that’s often viewed as the ugly stepsister to Ann Arbor during an economic downturn, opened by a high school dropout single mom? I did that! Growing my staff from 8 to 18 over the years, earning their trust and support, and learning how to be better humans while slinging coffee and sammiches. All while raising two small beings and a soon-to-be 20-year-old, Sami, who is also one of the staff!

Hey— how about the food?
The menu hasn’t changed a lot, though we’ve tried our hand a few times at expanding offerings, breakfast still surprised me as the breakout star of beezy’s.

As it stands our menu is quite small and that gives us the benefit of doing what we do really well because we aren’t trying to do everything.

The breakfast burrito, since day one, has been the most popular and my most favorite, but I’m also partial to the egg salad sandwich on our squishy but dense veggie herb bread— the deviled eggs-style seasoning adds zip. It’s so satisfying. And we have a nearly cult following for our soups!

What’s next for Bee?
Laying low. Then coming back around full throttle for whatever I put my energy into next. I’m a little afraid of what I’m gonna get myself into once I land on a new idea.

beezy’s café
20 N. Washington St., Ypsilanti
734-485-9625 | beezyscafe.com

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