San Benito Lifestyle

The many careers of Cara “Gum Beat Ya” Denny, the Roller Derby Queen

From gymnastics teacher to bar owner, environmentalist and real estate agent, the San Juan Bautista resident stays busy.

Cara Denny has stopped explaining all of her jobs, projects, and side ventures to people.

“I am involved in so many different things,” she said. “I gave up trying to tell people what I did for a living and now I just call myself an entrepreneur.”

Denny announced her retirement from roller derby last month, after 10 years of playing for the Faultline Derby Devilz of Hollister.

“I was known as ‘Gum Beat Ya,’” Denny said. “One of my teammates called me ‘Gumby’ because I had a flexible, flowing kind of movement that looked like I was out of control, but I wouldn’t crash. It turned into ‘Gum Beat Ya’ to make me seem a little more fierce.”

Cara Denny, owner of Daisy's Saloon in San Juan Bautista. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Cara Denny at Daisy’s Saloon in San Juan Bautista. Photo by Robert Eliason.

With her hands full as owner of Daisy’s Saloon and Livin’ the Green Dream, both in San Juan Bautista, as well as providing real estate and property management services at her Gateway Properties, perhaps the most remarkable thing about Denny retiring from the roller derby is that she had time to compete in first place.

Denny’s first love was gymnastics, which she began teaching when she was 14. She opened her own mobile gymnastics company when she turned 20, eventually growing her business to 10 employees, teaching an exercise program to 500 children a week at 25 locations.

“It was all Silicon Valley preschools,” Denny said. “The parents did not have the time to take the kids to extracurricular activities. It was a passion of mine. We would come during school hours and teach them right on site.”

Denny gave up the business a few years later, as she was not earning enough money to raise her family. She got her real estate broker’s license, starting work at Aromas Realty, then moving to Gateway Realty in San Juan Bautista. She eventually bought the company and expanded it.

“I added on property management after the real estate recession because I realized sales don’t always go the way you think they will,” Denny said. “A lot of people think real estate agents make a lot of money, but they do not take into consideration the costs that are associated and the downtimes. It can be a struggle. But property management provided a consistent stream of revenue.”

During the real estate recession, Denny also worked for banks, cleaning out properties and getting homes ready for sale again.

“We were the ones who went in to deal with all the stuff,” Denny said. “I was going to landfills every day and dropping off things. I would try to repurpose things, but there were so many people leaving things behind when they were moving that there was just too much.”

That led to her next venture, opening Livin’ the Green Dream, which sells organic products and items made from repurposed or recycled materials. 

“There is not a lot of money in it, but it is a passion for me the same way gymnastics was,” Denny said. “It is disheartening to see how much waste there is. The idea is to help educate consumers on ways to be green and to live in an eco-friendly way.”

In February, Denny celebrated the second anniversary of another one of her business ventures, Daisy’s Saloon.

“Once real estate got back on track, I bought the bar,” she said. “It is a bit of a challenge but I love it. The challenge of course has been COVID-19, keeping people safe, following the rules, becoming a restaurant, and dealing with the lack of income. The one fortunate thing about the situation is that people have become more aware of our patio area. I have been fortunate in the amount of outside area I have. I also have a great staff and my patrons seem to understand the struggle.”

Denny’s anniversary with the saloon also marked her retirement from the Derby Devilz. She said her involvement with team skating started with a chance meeting in a gym where she studied mixed martial arts.

“I was grappling with a woman in one of the classes,” Denny said. “She said, ‘You know what? You should come with me to roller derby!’ I thought ‘Wow, that sounds really cool.’ I grew up going to school dances back on the East Coast. They were all skating parties, held at the roller rink. I got to be a pretty good roller skater back then. So I jumped ship to roller derby because it felt more up my alley.”

Denny found yet another passion in the fast-paced sport. She became a “jammer,” the player who fights to get through the opponent’s blockers to score laps. 

“There are rules, but you can also just be hit in the face or slammed,” she said. “Bodies are flying out there. I really liked that aspect of the game because it allowed me to be physical, but forced me to be in control of my responses. I prided myself on being a calm, focused player. I struggled with the idea of resigning for a couple of years. I loved the game, but as I got older I didn’t think it would be conducive to a healthy life for me.”

Cara Denny skating. Photo courtesy of Cara Denny.
Cara Denny skating. Photo courtesy of Cara Denny.

According to Begga Burrows, coach of the Derby Devilz, Denny’s retirement leaves a hole in the team that will not be easily filled.

“We skated together for the last eight years,” Burrows said. “She was a great player and a great coach. She could take a lot of beating. She will definitely be missed. She has a great personality, always positive, and that will be greatly missed on the team.”

The world of competition is not over for Denny—she was recently introduced to pickleball and plans to take it up as soon as she can. One thing is certain though, Denny has set roots down in San Juan Bautista and enjoys every minute of it.

“I have grown to really appreciate this town, what it has to offer both to the community and to those who come to visit,” Denny said. “I grew up in a small town and I love the thought of building a life right here.”

 

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Robert Eliason

I’ve been a freelance photographer since my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. My dad taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.   I have had gallery showings and done commercial work but photojournalism is a wonderful challenge in storytelling.   The editors at BenitoLink have encouraged me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  It is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community.