|Usually, when a store closes its doors it’s gone for good. After two very promising years on the corner of Woodman and Ventura Boulevard, the little ice cream parlor Sweet Harts took a surprising sour turn. America’s sweetheart and co-owner Melissa Joan Hart bowed out from her store after scheduling difficulties (she lives on the east coast) and an embarrassing public lawsuit. In a blink of an eye and wriggle of the nose, it seemed like it was all over for the popular confectionary store in Sherman Oaks.
But one TV teenage witch’s loss is a former furniture storeowner’s gain when Jarrett Lesko, a neighbor and patron of the perky sweets shop made an impromptu decision to save the store. Having seen the popularity among families and kids since Sweet Harts – a play on Melissa Joan Hart’s moniker – opened in 2009, Lesko decided along with his wife, Alicia, an English instructor at CSUN to breathe new life with a few more sprinkles to what seems like a sweet investment.
Unlike most retail stores and cafes that build from the ground up, Lesko and his wife found the charming décor and ambiance of the gelato/candy store too irresistible to change, including the name, Sweet Harts. While the star attachment may have initially drawn in customers when its doors first opened, 818 residents have been loyally patronizing the shop that offers a play area for kids in a ‘Mad Hatter’ dining room, board games and room to roam. Parents can keep an eye on their young ones while sipping adult coffee drinks surrounded by elegant lavender walls and delicate chandeliers with touches of nostalgia: wall-to-wall jellybeans, candy dispensers and glass jars. It’s become the go-to place for play dates and parties, attracting more than just tiara wearing tykes with its romantic chic atmosphere and signature chocolate frozen yogurt as well as specially created pastries from local bakers. These aren’t your grocery store cupcakes but hand designed works of art that are almost too exquisite to eat.
The delectable selection is more than enough to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. There’s a wide array of creamy frozen yogurt with flavors like Red Velvet, Cake Batter or a very surprisingly rich Vanilla along with their more traditional styled gelato, but the pastries take top-shelf.
Time for Toffee bakery balances the chocolate against the toffee without overwhelming either flavor in the decadent chocolate toffee brownies and the peanut butter and chocolate brittle that doesn’t take the Jaws of Life to crack apart. Small but potent, a little bit does go a long way and is nicely matched with Jeanie Quirus’ sensational Coconut Mocha coffee.
Cookie sandwich aficionado Glenn Panitz of Xtreme Desserts in Studio City whose one time hobby has turned him into the monster of all things whoopee and whipped provides eye-catching cupcakes and creative turns like his Pumpkin and Ginger Spice cream-filled cookie that is subtly decadent enough not to want to share.
Jenny Rae of Lil Rae Cakes completes the offerings with her trademark cake pops that are as sassy and winsome as her Snow White persona. These precious bite-sized gems are coated with gorgeous colors and drizzled with expert care that you don’t know whether to eat them or set them out on a display, but one bite is enough to convince anyone that these are meant to be savored and enjoyed, especially her Chocolate Mint Cake Pops.
Working with local bakers is one way new owner Jarrett Lesko is trying to revive business in a community that has ample boutiques but a Starbucks on every corner. In an economy that is slowly starting to show signs of recovery, Lesko made a concerted effort to hire back most of the original staff including general manager, Tim Quirus. “One of our goals is for customers to see familiar faces and feel good about bringing their family to our store. It’s a place to hang out with your kids and know that we’re all part of the same community,” Alicia said at the re-opening.
Sweet Harts now has a second lease on life and if the outpouring of support from locals is any indication of its future, this sweet shop will around for a long time to come.
13704 Ventura Blvd
Sherman Oaks, CA
Open 7 days a week
Sun – Thurs: 11am – 10pm
Fri & Sat: 11am – 11:30pm
Jenny Rae of Lil Rae’s Cakes
Xtreme Desserts in Studio City
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