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Picnics in paradise: Central Coast entrepreneurs elevate al fresco dining 

click to enlarge BEACH VIBE Cayucos Picnic Co. can erect custom luxury picnics anywhere on the Central Coast, from beach locations, such as here in Cambria, to your own backyard.

Courtesy Photo By Andy Bowlin Photography

BEACH VIBE Cayucos Picnic Co. can erect custom luxury picnics anywhere on the Central Coast, from beach locations, such as here in Cambria, to your own backyard.

Who wouldn't love creating a luxurious picnic experience for a family member or friend? Sound intimidating? What if someone else swooped in beforehand to provide the elaborate spread, then cleaned up afterward?

New startup Cayucos Picnic Co., launched in April, does just that. Proprietor Hayley McGuigan pulls up to a predetermined location in her converted mail truck and works her magic.

Base packages include rugs, chairs, a low picnic table, seating cushions and pillows, throw blankets, place settings, LED candles, dried flowers, themed decorations, sparkling and still water, and sparkling lemonade. Wind permitting, guests are shaded by a canopy and umbrella.

Prices start at $200 for two guests.

"We offer our luxury base picnic in our classic neutral palette, blush, pink, or aqua," McGuigan said. "It's super multi-dimensional and year-round, whether for a birthday, holiday, or whatever you want to celebrate."

click to enlarge PRETTY IN PINK Proprietor Hayley McGuigan stores her wares in a renovated mail truck—a conversation piece that doubles as prime advertising. - PHOTO BY CHERISH WHYTE
  • Photo By Cherish Whyte
  • PRETTY IN PINK Proprietor Hayley McGuigan stores her wares in a renovated mail truck—a conversation piece that doubles as prime advertising.

McGuigan returns after an hour and a half to pack up, though more time can be pre-purchased. All items are cleaned and sanitized.

"As a Cayucos local, I really appreciate the option of scheduling an easy but impressive 'date night' or 'let's celebrate' package, and the tourists really seem to love having a new, fun activity to enjoy when they visit," said Andy Bowlin, a photographer whose services can be hired at an additional cost.

"Let's face it, everyone enjoys a picnic, but no one wants to drag all the gear to the beach. Hayley makes all that happen and can add food, flowers, dessert, and even myself as a photographer. It really is a complete experience that allows people to just relax and appreciate the local beauty without the work."

Cambria resident Juli Amodei hired McGuigan's services recently and was thrilled with the results.

Cayucos Picnic Co. was "the perfect surprise" for her husband David Glennon's birthday. "We arranged to have the picnic in the same location we were married on Moonstone Beach," she said.

click to enlarge SURPRISE! David Glennon of Cambria enjoys a surprise birthday picnic in June at Moonstone Beach in Cambria. As part of its service, Cayucos Picnic Co. scouts prime beach locations based on time of day, tides, crowds, and weather conditions. - COURTESY PHOTO BY AVA GLENNON
  • Courtesy Photo By Ava Glennon
  • SURPRISE! David Glennon of Cambria enjoys a surprise birthday picnic in June at Moonstone Beach in Cambria. As part of its service, Cayucos Picnic Co. scouts prime beach locations based on time of day, tides, crowds, and weather conditions.

"It was gorgeous! We enjoyed good wine, the ocean waves, and incredible carrot cake provided by Hayley. There was attention to every detail, including the two lounge chairs we got to relax in.

"This experience was so fun and truly one of a kind," she continued. "It was crafted with much love, and I am confident a birthday my husband will talk about for many years to come."

McGuigan's vehicle doubles as a mobile billboard and storage facility. Purchased from an Atascadero resident off of Craigslist, the 1979 Chevy Grumman "shortie" stocks picnic supplies for up to 12 guests, with larger groups possible.

Ideal sites include beaches and parks in Morro Bay, Cayucos and Cambria. The company selects an exact location based on time of day, tides, crowds, and weather conditions, and then sends clients a location pin the day of the picnic.

Additionally, McGuigan can "bring the picnic to your yard, deck, or even your living room," according to her website. "Just let us know what you're looking for, and we will do our best to make it happen."

When not working her picnic magic, McGuigan is the guest experience manager for Rod and Hammer's SLO Stills, a whiskey distillery adjacent to SLO Brew Rock in San Luis Obispo.

Her extensive background in catering, food service, and hospitality also includes stints at Cambria Pines Lodge and San Luis Obispo's Madonna Inn.

In addition to expanding her enterprise to include larger events and clients, including hotels and wineries, McGuigan hopes to make a difference on a personal level. She enjoys work "that impacts others and creates experiences for them," she said.

McGuigan was born and raised in Anaheim, but has called the Central Coast home for the past 12 years, with a decade spent in Cayucos. She recently moved to San Luis Obispo to be closer to work at SLO Stills.

All her free time is wrapped up in her picnic venture.

"We don't like to short change anyone," she said. "It's really important to us that we create a luxury experience—that you're going to come and see [your picnic], and you're going to think, 'Wow, this is all for us?'"

A basket of picnic companies

Other picnic planners have popped up locally over the past few years, including Wildernest Picnic Co., Pretty Little Picnics, and A Little Picnic.

Co-owned by Denise Schmitt and her daughter Avery Riis, Wildernest will host "a personalized luxury picnic for you and up to five of your favorite people," Riis said. The Los Osos residents, who started the business in October 2020, offer a variety of themes and add-ons, with prices from $200.

click to enlarge INTO THE FOREST Wildernest Picnic Co. sets up its glamping-themed "Babes in the Woods" picnic spread in March at a private property in Templeton. The owners wanted to commemorate the future site of their home. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WILDERNEST PICNIC CO.
  • Photo Courtesy Of Wildernest Picnic Co.
  • INTO THE FOREST Wildernest Picnic Co. sets up its glamping-themed "Babes in the Woods" picnic spread in March at a private property in Templeton. The owners wanted to commemorate the future site of their home.

With guests' input, Wildernest "will scout out an ideal location and arrange your styled gathering," Riis explained. "From there, we will do all the legwork. From delivery to setup and cleanup—all you have to do is show up in your best picnicker outfit." The base price covers an hour and a half. Picnic locales range from Cayucos to Avila Beach, or about 15 miles from Los Osos. Additional time and travel increases the cost.

Morgan Johancen launched her picnic business, Pretty Little Picnics, in February of this year, while still a full-time student at Cal Poly.

"I just graduated from Cal Poly [in June], majoring in experience industry management with a concentration in hospitality and tourism," Johancen said. "I look forward to pursuing picnics full time now and creating memorable experiences for locals and tourists around the Central Coast."

Pretty Little Picnics packages start at $150 for two hours with a six-person maximum and travel limited to 10 miles from San Luis Obispo. Floral arrangements are included. Patrons can also bring their dog if they purchase a $20 puppy package containing a water bowl, dog bed, toy, and bone.

A Little Picnic owner Cassidy Tomasini—another recent Cal Poly graduate with a degree in tourism, hospitality, and destination management—keeps things intimate with a four-guest cap, according to her website.

Her San Luis Obispo-based business, also launched in February, offers two-hour packages starting at $120 for two people. Flowers and sparkling cider are provided, with add-ons ranging from painting supplies to a cake with balloons. Guests can picnic at Avila Beach, Morro Rock Beach, Montaña de Oro, Shell Beach, or their own private property. Δ

Flavor writer Cherish Whyte would love a surprise birthday picnic. Hint, hint. Reach her through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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