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The Evolution of Mo'Betta

Article by Christa Shively

Photography by Flourish Branding Photography, Clay Caldwell

Originally published in Loveland & South Lifestyle

If anyone knows just how quickly things in life can change, it is Clay Caldwell, the chef and owner of Mo’Betta Gumbo, located right in the heart of Loveland’s Historic Downtown district. Since opening on Feb. 1, 2013, Mo’Betta Gumbo has seen the downtown district grow every year. He recalls the struggles of starting a new business. Fortunately for foodies on the Front Range, Clay has never backed down when faced with adversity, and this attitude of perseverance carries over to his business. Asked about the restaurant’s origin story, Clay responded without hesitation: “Mo’Betta Gumbo was birthed out of financial ruin.”

They moved from Texas after the market crashed. The chef had been involved in a commercial development. The perfect storm occurred, and they took hit after hit. In 2012, Clay found himself selling gumbo on the side of the road in the Texas heat, just to pay utilities. It was while doing this that he realized that his gumbo could be his family’s ticket to a better life.

Clay and Tina had discussed moving away from Texas for some time. They chose Colorado so that their family could slow down and enjoy life more. Clay borrowed $20,000, and they set out to make a new home for themselves and their gumbo. They found the perfect location on the corner of Fourth Street and Cleveland Avenue in Loveland, but things weren’t easy starting out. In September 2013, the region saw a historically damaging flood that weakened sales. In 2014, the pipes from the apartments next to the restaurant burst. This, unfortunately, necessitated another remodel, one even more extensive than the pre-opening. It required them to have to replace all the original furnishings of the restaurant. Clay admits that the challenges his family faced during this time were “a journey lived openly,” however, after overcoming yet another obstacle, Mo’Betta Gumbo was once again up and running.

Clay and Tina have not forgotten the roots of their success and use Mo’Betta Gumbo to give back to the community and to fight injustices. Whether it’s purchasing Christmas trees for single parents, donating to Toys for Tots or working hand in hand with Meals on Wheels, Clay has found so many ways to give back to the community that he loves.

“Our restaurant is about building relationships. We have woven ourselves into the community and have become synonymous with downtown Loveland,” he says.

Tina remains the primary caretaker of Zöe, who suffers from cerebral palsy among other health issues, but when she is able to make it down to the restaurant, she is the perfect hostess, washing dishes, wiping tables and loving on her guests. Taking a seat at Mo’Betta Gumbo means more than supporting a family business. When you eat here, you are supporting a community. Foodies of Northern Colorado feel fortunate to have such a wonderful Cajun eatery so close.

After six years of business, Clay has again been faced with another problem, albeit an encouraging one. As the popularity of his Southern food and hospitality has grown, the modest-sized kitchen has been feeling some growing pains. One of the biggest challenges has been cooking large volumes of food in such a cramped kitchen, which is why Clay is excited to be moving Mo’Betta Gumbo into the Foundry at the end of this year.

“The community here has watched us grow, succeed and through the challenges have encouraged us,” he says. “Now it’s time to get more space and continue that pattern.”

As I sit across from Clay, I see a man of strength and perseverance, who welcomes people when they enter, telling them to sit wherever they are comfortable, as if they are in his very home—because they are.

  • Pic #9 - Pg 1 of recipe
  • Picture taken by Clay Caldwell on Opening Day Feb. 1, 2013.