Beaverton vegan baker is legally blind, but has a clear vision of the future

Carina Comer waits on a customer at her new vegan bakery in downtown Beaverton. Comer and her three employees are all visually impaired. (KATU)

There's a new vegan bakery in downtown Beaverton, and there's something special there that has a little to do with a wide variety of treats, and a lot more to do with spunk, grit and a vision -- or lack thereof.

If you had to pick one thing that stands out inside Carina's Bakery, it would probably be the luscious baked goods inspired by baker and CEO Carina Comer's Scandinavian heritage.

But you might also notice the dogs peering out from beneath the counter.

“I didn't really want to shut them in all day while I was working. So I knew that the counter was going to be three feet wide, and I just decided to put a crate in there,” Carina said. “They can look out both at the customers and at me and they can be together.”

Sutter and Ribbon are not only pets, they're guide dogs for Carina -- who's legally blind -- and her visually-impaired employee, Lora Ward.

Carina's other employees are also visually impaired.

“I'm legally blind and because of my love for baking and my struggle to find a place in the workplace, I wanted to open a bakery that employed people with disabilities,” she said.

Signs alert customers that the workers at Carina's are all visually impaired and to be patient.

Carina has installed adaptive devices to assist them. The scales speak. So does the cash register.

“It takes us a little longer,” Carina said. “We're still getting used to our adaptive system that has its own quirks.”

Carina relied on Scandinavian recipes for her menu and created new ones that are both savory and sweet.

The Scandinavian almond cake is a bestseller.

None of Carina's baked goods contain any animal products.

“It fits in well with what I am trying to do with this bakery because I want people to feel like they belong and are being treated right, and I should do the same with the animals and the baked goods.”

For Lora Ward (Ribbon is her guide dog) being able to bake with Carina is an honor, she said.

“To maintain a lifestyle and to live, this is an awesome opportunity,” Lora said.

Carina caught the baking habit when she was a child.

Brain tumors as a child may have robbed her of most of her sight, but not her vision for the future.

“I've been in the kitchen since I was 5,” she said. “And people didn't believe when I told them I was going to have a bakery. I think my parents would have loved to have me go in a different direction.”

Her grandfather, however, would understand.

Standing beneath a Swedish flag that used to fly from his sailboat in Connecticut, Carina credited him for a lot of her success.

“He started with nothing and then built his own store and built it up from there,” she said. “He inspires me a lot with the drive that he taught me and the entrepreneurship.”

Carina's Bakery is on the ground floor of the new La-Scala apartment building on Southwest Lombard Street just south of Farmington Road.

The grand opening is tentatively set for mid-November, but the bakery is up and running right now.

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