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Bringing Home the Bakin'

The Sweetlife starts construction, and Sharon's rolls out the bagels.


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The Sweetlife Bakery is moving into the Cooper-Young neighborhood with its sights set on breakfast delights and late-night decadence.

"There's no place to go after dinner for a good dessert," says Jason Doty, who is opening Sweetlife with his girlfriend Catherine Bauer. Doty says the two are tired of choosing from the same four desserts at many restaurants.

"Tiramisu, cheesecake, molten chocolate cake, and lemon icebox pie," Doty says, rattling off the list automatically.

The closest thing to a bona-fide dessert shop in Cooper-Young was Sweet Bistro, which closed in 2009.

Now Doty and Bauer want to bring variety back to the dessert tray: plated desserts, pies, homemade ice creams, dessert bars, pie milkshakes (like his peach cobbler shake with Ripley peaches), cookies, and the already famous "Hot Mess," a deconstructed pie or cake served in a mason jar.

"You should see our house right now," Doty says with an exhausted smile. "We have three big chalkboards with an amazing menu outline that we have to whittle down."

Breakfast pastry-lovers are also on the Sweetlife's radar. Doty and Bauer are working on perfecting recipes for muffins, brioche cheese danishes, sweet rolls, and donuts. Locally owned J. Brooks Coffee is developing a special blend for the bakery.

"We'll have very basic espresso drinks and coffee," Doty says. "I want people to come and be able to sit down with their pastries and have a cup of coffee."

But with Java Cabana, a venerated anchor of the Cooper-Young community, across the street, Doty has decided to keep his drinks menu limited. He also plans to prepare some specialty desserts, like biscotti and date bars, exclusively for the neighboring coffee shop.

The Sweetlife will be housed in a former office space on Young and, in addition to the bakery, will include a retail space for local food items and a dining area. Doty is also building out the front parking lot as a patio space for outdoor seating, and Mary Phillips of Farm Girl Food Gardens will be planting raised beds around the building for herbs and flowers.

The two things Doty is clear about are his love for local products (the bakery uses Rock Springs Dairy milk and butter and hopes to use its own homegrown herbs) and his devotion to keeping his menu items new, fresh, and different — always according to customer demands.

"Last week, I asked all of our Facebook fans to taste-test cookies. I baked a hundred cookies and delivered them around town," Doty says.

Construction on the new bakery begins this week, and Doty holds October 1st as a tentative opening date. The shop will be open every day at 7 a.m. and will close at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and at midnight on Friday and Saturday.

The Sweetlife Bakery, 2185 Young

Just about given up on finding good bagels in Memphis? Good news: Sharon's Chocolates & Bread Café in Chickasaw Crossing has a new menu offering, and you can bet it goes well with cream cheese.

That's right. New York-style bagels, chewy and crispy at the same time, are now available every Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

"It's like what I used to have as a kid growing up in Brooklyn," owner Michael Fajans says.

Though their chocolates and take-and-bake pizzas have been the strongest sellers, Fajans hopes to fill the bagel void in Memphis. Admittedly, Memphis hasn't been much of a bagel town, which means Sharon's has some convincing to do. But these freshly made bagels (in plain, poppy seed, onion, sesame seed, and everything) are so far above any variety you get at the grocery store, they very well might be the next big Saturday brunch treat.

Sharon's Chocolates & Bread Café, 2881 Poplar (324-4422)

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