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Life a little less sweet after closure

June 10, 2003

Paul Clinton

Owners of the popular bakery the Sweet Life are looking for a place

to reopen their shop about a week after closing their doors at

Fashion Island.

The search began after the Irvine Co. asked owners Dwayne and

Nancy Kirksey to relocate to make room for a theme restaurant by

Houston's set to open this fall.

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"We would have stayed there forever if they hadn't asked us to

move," Nancy Kirksey said Monday. "It was a very successful location,

and we enjoyed great business there. There wasn't another suitable

location [in Fashion Island]."

The new full-service restaurant, which has already signed a lease,

would be the third eatery for the Phoenix, Ariz.-based Houston's

Restaurants in Newport Beach. The company also runs Bandera on East

Coast Highway and Gulfstream in the Corona del Mar Plaza.

The restaurant will also replace a small art gallery that briefly

sat next to the Sweet Life, across from Neiman Marcus. Both closed

around June 1.

"That location is ideal for a full sit-down restaurant," Irvine

Co. spokeswoman Jennifer Hieger said. "It's adjacent to the parking

lot and it provides visibility from the road that circles Fashion

Island."

It will add another restaurant to the northern outlying section of

Newport Center, known more for its office buildings. Tutto Mare is

also just off the "ring road," as it is known.

For Nancy Kirksey, who lives in Huntington Beach, leaving a spot

at Fashion Island she had occupied since 1981 caused some consternation.

The bakery and cafe had become a popular place to pick up

sandwiches, a cup of soup, cookies or other sweet-tooth fixes. Fresh

baked goods were prepared daily and served over a lunch counter.

Kirksey, her husband and investor Michael Gray will continue

running Sweet Life Enterprises, an Irvine-based manufacturer of

frozen pre-portioned cookie dough.

"It was unique. It was different," Kirksey said. "Our stuff was

always fresh. It was always good."

Kirksey said she has discussed several other locations with the

Irvine Co. to reopen the Sweet Life. The company has offered several

options, but Kirksey said she has rejected them because they don't

give her the same visibility.

"We did not intend to renew her lease at that location," Hieger

said. "We would still like to be able to find them a location in

Fashion Island."

The Irvine Co. has lost two tenants at its Harbor View Shopping

Center, as well. Joe's Place, a pizza shop, and women's clothing

store Sarah Peck closed about two weeks ago, Hieger said.

* PAUL CLINTON covers the environment, business and politics. He

may be reached at (949) 764-4330 or by e-mail at

paul.clinton@latimes.com.

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