True Story

The peaceful & charming ambiance of Shoogie Boogies® & The Garden room Cafe', was designed by Kathryn Kittinger, Photographer & Creative Entrepreneur. The common thread between Kathryn's photography & other endeavors is her "creative vision".  Kathryn only discovered this gift, after she resigned from the security of a lucrative corporate job, in search of her life's calling.

In Her Own Words

"In 2000, I realized one morning on my drive to work in Silicon Valley, CA that my arrival at the next highest paying job had brought me financial security, but had left me with a void.  I hadn't planned to resign that day, but I did so spontaneously, not because I was courageous or had a plan, but I just knew something in my spirit told me I was finished with that chapter of my life. They offered to pay me more, which I thought about for a few seconds and then politely declined. 

I sort of drove off in a fog figuratively & quite literally into the fog of beautiful Monterey Bay, CA, where I spent the next 8 months in solitude & prayer.  During this time, I made a promise to God.... 'If He would just show me my talents, I would follow through & tell His story for His Glory.'

During this time of reflection, not once did being a photographer or cafe' developer hit my top 100 list.  I wasn't qualified for either!  After months of soul searching, I gave up, packed my car & considered a return to the corporate world.  It was in that "surrender" that the answer came immediately and in the most unlikely of places. The answer came through a person "I never saw" in a remote pumpkin patch, in Carmel Valley, CA.  There I was in a valley literally and emotionally then Grace stepped in.  Little did I know, that day would forever change my life and impact tens of thousands of people.

A dear neighbor had asked me to photograph her baby girl in this pumpkin patch. She was dressed up like a puppy dog for Halloween. I did so, but I was sure that this was off course from my career search.  Soon after the photo shoot, my phone rang and the caller introduces herself as the director of a parental education center in Pacific Grove, CA. 

Unannounced to me, she had observed me photographing Miss Marley and said, "I can tell you are a good photographer by the way you move."  After reviewing just a couple of my photos, she instantly hired me to photograph 600 individual babies from all over Monterey County. I thought I would fall off my chair, when I heard myself accept the opportunity.  Once again, it wasn't courage. My spirit just seemed to lead me.

The long story is petrifying and funny funny! The short version is my 'weakness became my uniqueness'.   Rather than using traditional lighting and equipment, I fork lifted a redwood tree stump into the middle of her parking lot & built a temporary garden for the four month shoot. I continued to photograph 600 babies each fall for the next four years. I became known as a child photographer who used natural lighting and pretty photo backdrops, such as real bistros & boutiques.

In 2008, a magazine wrote I was "One of America's Premier Children's Photographers." Only God could write a story like that!  (Child photo archive will be added to the website soon!)

In 2005, I moved to Sarasota to live closer to family and bought what is currently The Garden Room Cafe exclusively to create a photo garden studio that would serve as a working set or background for my photo shoots.

For the first three years, the property remained closed to the public, as I worked on making every square inch of it photo friendly. I never dreamt nor could've imagined that it would develop into anything beyond a gallery-photo studio! 

During those years, a disgruntled neighbor, but now a dear friend, wanted me to be more of a team player and open my doors to the public. On the fourth year of hearing him complain, I thought, ‘He’s right... I’m not a team player.’ So, I moved my office over to the gallery and quickly found I could not fully concentrate on my photo work.  A trickle of visitors turned into steady stream of guests offering to purchase anything that was not nailed down, such as: my desk lamp, writing pen, telephone, garden plants, music and of all things my aromatic plug-in.

Puzzled by their interest, I began to ponder perhaps this gift for vision could extend beyond the camera lens.  I prayerfully began to design and create a little shopping oasis.  I settled into the idea that this would be a photo business plus a small gift shop. As the shop began to take roots, I noticed guests seemed to linger & return frequently to show more friends the garden. I did not have any tables nor chairs, nor really anything to offer guests even to drink. So, I started saying in jest, “Do you want me to open a café’?” I wasn’t serious. Everyone who knew me could attest, I did not cook. For fun, I put out a guest book proposing this idea of building a café’, just to see the response. To my total shock, about 1500 visitors signed the guest book rather quickly, showing an interest in a café’.

Then, I thought, “Oh no, what have I done.  Now I have to do it!”  I found myself in a similar spot as I did in the beginning of the photography business.  Not Qualified again! So back to my knees in prayer I went… I needed all the inspiration and help I could get.  After I shook off my nervousness, I dove in and and started gutting my garage-storage room to create a heavenly dining experience.

One of the first inspirational miracles that occurred in designing the café’ had to do with the darling little black building with pitched roof that sits at the end of the garden. This building started with a prayer request for a vision, which turned into an sketch and then became a reality.  (The full story on this little building will be added to the site soon.)

In short, we are "officially" the first in the Southeast U.S. to represent this cottage company and can build custom designs internationally. {Our running joke is "Complimentary meal with the purchase of a custom cottage."}

This sweet cottage was imported from England and attached to the side of the garage, about ten weeks after my initial prayer. The detailed story is worthy of a chapter in a book and will bring tears to your eyes. It is dedicated to the memory of my precious Grandmother Alta.

The expansion of the business to include a café’ occurred in October of 2009. The first day we opened I almost quit! It was trial by fire!! In hindsight and only in hindsight... was that very first day/first week outrageously funny! Another chapter for a book.

In short, the garden was packed, literally every table taken. No umbrellas the first year!  No indoor dining in the gallery either!  It's a miracle anyone ever returned.  Somewhere in the middle of lunch, I wanted to take my apron off and sit down in middle of the floor and cry!  Thank God for my precious and merciful guests who had sincere empathy for me and stayed with me, as I learned and grew.

With the first year under our belt, you can imagine my joy, when the café stood on its own in the press, completely separate from photography:

In 2011, Sarasota Magazine honored us with their "Best of the Best" award & Biz(941) Magazine turned the camera around on me for their cover featuring "Creative Commercial Design Stars".

New York Radio Show Host, Rory Pinto, dined here and returned home to tell his listeners, “Kathryn Kittinger…is an ambassador of beauty.”

I'll never forget the day the The Ritz Carlton first called and started a relationship of referring guests to us frequently. I was blown away!

The Sarasota Garden Club awarded us with a city beautification award.

The stories just kept getting richer and better...

In 2014, ABC News called and asked if they could pull their news truck up to the garden for a live broadcast, in which I responded, “Are you kidding? I’ll take the fence out and you can pull right in!”

In 2016, SRQ Magazine referred to us as the “Garden of Eden…a lush shelter from the troubles of the modern world”.

Photo Credit: SRQ Magazine

Photo Credit: SRQ Magazine

In addition to serving lunch, the past few years the café’ grew organically into a destination for bridal & baby showers.  To date, we have hosted over 600 bridal and baby showers, weddings and special events.

Guests frequently ask me if still do photography.  3,000 babies/children later from here to California, I think I've done it!  Cafe' or no cafe', those little guys wore me out!  

I've turned my attention to writing a book, with a big dream of one day producing a film/inspirational documentary. It is my life’s mission to make good on the promise I made to the Lord during those 8 months of prayer…(”If you will answer my prayer, I will tell your story.”} This will be a story of His amazing faithfulness, in spite of my own many shortcomings and mis-steps…a story of how He used every phase of my life, the good, the bad and the ugly and weaved them all together to make this beautiful tapestry for His glory. Whatever was originally intended for my harm ultimately resulted in making my life better, as it forced me to search higher and deeper for an authentic relationship with my Creator and His divine purpose for my life.

One of my biggest business mentors/inspirations has always been Walt Disney, I am forever amazed at his foresight. To think... It all started with him seeing a mouse in the clouds. Divine inspiration!
He envisioned more than he could possibly do in his lifetime.

So I continue to pray and dream…. 

Countless wonderful things have come out of that wilderness experience journey in my life, but the greatest blessing is the joy and deep fulfillment I get out of living what I was created to do…

I get huge satisfaction out of making the world around me more beautiful, but I have discovered even greater joy in serving and loving my guests, who I sincerely consider an extension of my family.

To all this I say… To God Be All the Glory!  I was just a girl in a packed car with a prayer and willingness to serve! I could have never imagined nor dreamt of any of this…

Psalm 116: "I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy...He delivered my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling...How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me?...I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of His people...O Lord, truly I am your servant."

In Gratitude

I want to personally thank my cafe' manager, Mike Rivera, who was heaven sent to run this cafe'. His extreme hard work, fierce loyalty & dedication since 2011 has made this place what it is today.  I could not do it without him.

Want to hear more? Listen to a 1 hour radio show to hear the story behind the story. Grab a cup of tea and listen when you have a quiet moment and need a little inspiration. Manhattan based, nationally recognized radio celebrity, Beatty Cohan, interviews Kathryn Kittinger on Ask Beatty, listening audience 110,000.