"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
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
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