Cassie Bittle, co-owner of longtime local favorite KC Steakhouse, is one of Kern County's most passionate advocates. Along with feeding the community for almost 10 years, she has used her platform as a small-business owner to aid others and ignite change.
"We got into the food industry because of the sense of family it gives you and the sense of community," Bittle said of the restaurant that she and her mother, Missy Pelton, purchased in 2012. (Pelton was the bookkeeper for the previous owner for 26 years prior to purchasing the business.) "We've been able to meet so many wonderful people."
Next year, the mother-daughter duo will celebrate 10 years of owning the restaurant.
"Working with my mother on a daily basis is a blast, and you can learn so much from your parents," said Bittle.
Although she's in her 30s, Bittle acknowledged that still being able to learn from her mother is a "blessing in itself." They still argue, but Bittle doesn't think she'd be able to survive without having the type of business partner she's found with her mother.
In those years, Bittle and Pelton have worked to remain true to what has been done in the last 82 years of the establishment, "but also diversifying to be able to meet the needs of the people," Bittle explained. It is one of the biggest challenges they've faced in the midst of their ownership.
While it has been an emotional rollercoaster, especially given the last year, it has also been a time where Bittle has joined with others in the community to rally for change.
One thing is certain, Bittle has a heart and passion for helping others. She started attending Bakersfield City Council meetings to help inspire change, and said it's much easier to be part of the solution than it is to be part of the complaining.
"There's just something in the water," Bittle said of why she's so passionate about supporting the community.
At the end of the day, everyone is working together for a common goal of making Bakersfield a better place.
"We are all bound together by this common need to see everybody strive, and I think it's just such a beautiful place," said Bittle.
It was during the council meetings that she noticed the movers and shakers on a daily basis, making a difference for everyday citizens.
"Before you know it, I was going out on Saturdays and helping clean up the streets down at the Fox Theater, and then we were going out on Sundays to help clean the river," said Bittle.
While her evenings might be booked every night, Bittle isn't complaining.
"It's just so fulfilling every time you get an opportunity to help somebody else," added Bittle.
Thanks to the connections Bittle has built, and her involvement with the Bakersfield Downtown Business Association, when KC Steakhouse experienced an issue homelessness in the midst of the pandemic, the local government listened and responded.
Bittle understands the importance of restaurants, noting they are usually the ones sponsoring Little League games or where people celebrate the big moments in their lives, whether it's a big promotion or a birthday. The restaurateur loves when customers come in and share their experiences and celebrations with them.
"Restaurants are what keep our communities together," said Bittle.
To be able to look across the room and see the smiling faces means something to Bittle and her mother, who are self-described social butterflies.
"That's always something that warms my heart when I leave at the end of the night. It's going back through how many people I talk to," said Bittle.
Her positivity is what Bittle would like people to remember most about her.
"There's no such thing as 'never' and there's no such thing as you can't do something. Where there's a will, there's a way, and I think that's what kept us going this whole time," added Bittle.