A bittersweet closure created a sweet opportunity.
Jonathan and Rachel Eddy purchased Sorrento Italian Restaurant in early 2020, but closed the neighborhood Italian restaurant of more than 30 years on August 28 after it was unable to overcome the challenges of the pandemic.
“We are sentimental about the business. It was sad and bittersweet for us to shut it down,” said Jonathan Eddy.
“We had some great staff members, but it was also a really challenging environment. Several of us have families and young children, so being open at night and having full service was difficult.”
The decision allows Eddy to double his bakery business, Country Harvest Desserts, which the Eddys bought in early 2019.
The Dessert Bakery makes cakes, pies, brownies, quiche and sausages for restaurants, hotels, country clubs and retirement communities.
The purchase and renovation of the Sorrento space means Country Harvest Desserts can convert the building into a bakery to serve a larger wholesale customer base and also open to the public.
The Eddys originally purchased Sorrento to use as a bakery, but chose to continue operating it as a restaurant.
“We fell in love with Sorrento,” said Jonathan Eddy. “Instead of turning it into a bakery, we continue to operate it as a restaurant.”
Now that Sorrento is closed, the Eddys will relocate Country Harvest from a smaller retail space in East Arlington to Sorrento’s old space at 6943 St. Augustine Road in the San Jose area.
“We need more space. We have some great customers, but we lack the space and capacity to meet those needs,” Eddy said.
He said the timing of the Sorrento closure was to be able to renovate and open Country Harvest in time for the holiday rush.
Their goal is to open in early December.
R. Hartwig Construction LLC is the contractor for the Sorrento renovations.
The city is reviewing an interior demolition permit to prepare for construction.
When the Eddys were originally looking for a larger bakery space in 2019, they found Sorrento’s for sale.
Colliers International Senior Director Gary Montour represented the restaurant’s vendor, Luciano Russo Sr., in the transaction.
Russo “seemed to like me and I was sentimental about his business,” Jonathan Eddy said.
“We love the authenticity and old world charm that he instilled in the business,” he said.
“Quite quickly we determined that we would operate it as a restaurant, then COVID happened.”
Space to make 1,000 cakes and pies a week
CountryHarvestDesserts.com says it has been providing First Coast restaurants with “fine cakes and desserts since 1991.”
Eddy said that the bakery makes its products from scratch.
Desserts include signature chocolate mousse cakes, cheesecakes, layered cakes, French tarts, sheet cakes, and specialty items from tarts to dessert shooters and individual desserts.
The kitchen also makes items such as kolaches.
“It really is a pretty traditional old-school bakery,” Eddy said recently, adding that the kitchen just received 120 dozen fresh eggs.
Each of the carrot cakes has almost a pound of freshly shredded carrots.
All desserts are made for other organizations and relationships are discreet.
“We are your dessert kitchen. As such, we keep a low profile,” Eddy said.
“In many places in the city, if you have dessert, you are eating something that we participated in.”
The Eddys rent a private commercial baking facility along Atlantic Boulevard near St. Johns Bluff Road.
It is not open to the public and the name is not on the door.
Most weeks, Country Harvest Desserts produces 250 to 500 pies and pies in less than 1,500 square feet.
Eddy is building the new bakery to guarantee a capacity of 1,000 per week, working “to get there by winning more business and adding bakers.”
The Sorrento building has 3,600 square feet of space and the Eddys will be renovating about 2,500 square feet for the bakery.
A salon rents out the rest of the building.
There is also room on the site for expansion.
Being a private entity, Eddy declined to disclose revenue or investment in renovations for Country Harvest Desserts.
Opening to the public for a piece or the whole cake
The Eddys registered The Florida Sweet Spot LLC with the state in April 2019.
Through Eddy Holdings LLC, the Eddys paid $550,000 for the St. Augustine Road property in March 2020.
They purchased the building, developed in 1969, from Sorrento Italian Restaurant Inc., led by Luciano Russo Sr. as president.
Luciano and Joanne Russo incorporated the company in 1991, having opened a smaller version of Sorrento in the late 1980s.
The Eddys are renovating the restaurant into a larger patisserie that can sell desserts to the public, as well as provide a small place to sit, have a coffee, and “hang out for a minute.”
A showcase will display the desserts.
There will be a counter serving slices, cookies, snacks and other items. Whole cakes and pies will also be available for purchase.
“Our goal is for people to be able to participate in the bakery sensation,” Eddy said.
“They would feel the energy of the cakes we are decorating that day, and they would eat a slice and take one home.”
Customers can take a slice or buy the whole cake or cake.
“We will have stock every day based on what we are producing and what we have determined to have ready for that day,” he said.
“Since we have wholesalers in the back, we should be able to restock quickly.”
He hopes to dabble in Danish pastries and croissants.
Eddy said Country Harvest Desserts has five full-time and part-time employees and will add a few over the holidays.
It expects to close Sunday through Monday and operate for retail Tuesday through Saturday. The wholesale operation will have a different schedule.
He said he is finalizing menu details and pricing for the public, but plans to “maintain the Country Harvest tradition with the goal of baking at the perfect balance of quality and value.”
Country Harvest Desserts will develop a selection of products to sell to the public and decide how to accept orders.
“Everyone has a unique item that Grandma used to make, but we’re going to have to select a menu that everyone will love, but based on what we’re capable of making.”
A great New Year’s Eve on the menu
The Eddys, who turn 40 this year, have six children ranging in age from 15 to 4-year-old twins.
Jonathan Eddy’s background is in the commercial food side of the business, having imported seafood for 15 years, working with the family at Beacon Fisheries Inc. and Fisherman’s Dock Seafood Market.
He hasn’t been to culinary school.
“I am blessed with our baking and decorating staff. They are, in many ways, the experts.”
She also works closely with former Bleu Chocolat Cafe co-owner and chef Erika Cline, who operated the Springfield restaurant before closing it nearly three years ago.
Cline is a certified pastry chef, contestant and judge on network baking challenges, and cook at the James Beard House in New York City.
She’s also a chocolatier, and Eddy hopes to eventually add some of her sweets to the Sorrento location.
He said that Cline is the inspiration behind many of his products and the renovation project.
He said Cline recently moved from Jacksonville for family reasons, “but he remains a big part of our culinary family and helps provide motivation and direction even from afar.”
He said chef Emily Holt “stepped up and impressed us all with her energy, wit and creativity.” In addition to decorating, she oversees most of the culinary aspects of the business.
Shannon Gilliam is the head baker and Thomas Cody is the longtime delivery guy and “the face of the company”.
“He is known for his dry humor and often makes you listen to his daily joke before taking delivery,” Eddy said.
For now, the Eddys are looking forward to the rush and holiday celebrations.
Jonathan Eddy turns 40 in November, shortly before we “move on.”