Black business owner turns family banana pudding into winning recipe

SAN DIEGO — Making banana pudding is a sweet science. Extraordinary Banana Pudding owner Toran Grays learned to develop the delicious desert from his great grandma.

“It’s family, she kind of created it and it’s kind of just been passed on. It’s kind of something I want to keep in the family for years to come,” Grays said.

The 40-year-old applied to open his first business featuring the banana-flavored delicacy in March 2020. But he ran into a problem.

“Due to COVID, right at the last moment, I had to change everything up with the health department. They were like, if you want to stay open and bring this product to the masses, you have to change it up,” Grays said.

He switched to prepackaged puddings while working full-time selling desserts on the weekends to anyone with a sweet tooth.

“Barbershops, hair salons, grocery stores — anywhere I can talk to somebody, I would try to get them to try the product,” Grays said.

Grays saved more than $20,000 in the process before getting the greenlight to open his La Mesa location. Since then, business has been going well — so well that Grays opened a second location in Long Beach in 2021.

Fun fact: Extraordinary Banana Pudding’s kitchen is off-site, in Scripps Ranch. Grays wakes up early every morning, making all of the product by himself. He says his customers help keep him going.

“When you come in here and you get the smiles and the customers, it’s everything. I tell customers that all the time,” Grays said. “When my days are tough, and I see you guys and you guys come in here and you sample, and you tell me how great the product is, that changes my whole energy for the day.”

“Definitely a hidden gem, man. More people need to know about this place. Once you taste it — no disrespect to your moms, but it’s better than your moms,” said Herman Bennett, Serra Mesa resident.

“It’s really like a taste where anyone in any type of culture, any ethnic group that would go, hey grandma, grandpa, can you make this dessert for me? This is where you got to get that little taste from home, right here,” said Andy Xaysittiphone, La Mesa resident.

The 2021 small business of the year award winner isn’t done. In February, he will open a third location in Temecula.

“I want to be able to let people try my products in a different area. Hopefully, they love it,” Grays said.

After four years as a Black business owner juggling three different shops, Grays sends this message to his customers:

“Thank you for supporting me, thank you for being here, and I hope you continue to support and try all of our new products,” Grays said.

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