San Francisco

Castro's 'Sweet Inspiration' Closing After 37 Years

"Do people actually want Sweet Inspiration around?" asked restaurateur Ike Shehadeh.

It's not a rhetorical question: after nearly four decades serving the Castro, Sweet Inspiration Bakery Café (2239 Market St.) will close next week.

"Officially the last day of Sweet Inspiration is going to be on [March] 1st," said co-owner Ryan Scott.

Opened in 1981, current owners chef Scott (formerly of Finn Town) and Shehadeh (Ike's Placebought the coffeeshop four months ago from previous owner Mike Colter.

Red Velvet Cake. | Photo: Michele S./Yelp

"We've given this a very valiant run, and we've worked really hard to make sure that we can bring everything that we possibly could to this amazing spot," said Scott. But, "since taking over, the numbers have just not made sense."

Before the duo reopened in January, they remodeled the café and revamped its menu. While keeping many of the bakery's signature cakes, they added burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, fries, milkshakes, and all-you-can-eat pancakes.

However, "the cakes just aren't selling," said Shehadeh. 

Burgers and fries were added to the menu. | Photo: Sweet Inspiration/Instagram

Despite the bakery's reputation and longevity, "people are not putting their money behind the cakes," he said, noting that they weren't strong sellers under the previous owner, either.

Scott said they wanted to manage the café for "the same reason why people have been drawn to it—it's iconic."

The rising number of vacant and closing businesses is also "one thing Ike and I haven't liked seeing," Scott said. "There was an opportunity to be able to take this over and to also keep the name."

Inside the remodeled café. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

Besides the lack of business, in a two-year period, the location was cited twice for violating the city's formula retail rules. In the Upper Market area, stores with more than 11 locations must first obtain a conditional use permit.

But in July 2016, Sweet Inspiration added Ike's-branded sandwiches to its menu and the Planning Department took action.

The former owner resolved the matter the following month, but last December, after Shehadeh and Scott took over, SF Planning reopened the matter after it "received information that Mike's Place was operating from Sweet Inspiration Bakery selling Ike's Place menu items."

The café's former menu. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

Last week, Sweet Inspiration complied with the notice of violation and avoided fines but was required to pay a $2,622.14 fee for time and costs associated with Planning's investigation.

Scott and Shehadeh said they don't plan to try out a different concept and will put the space on the market instead of seeking a Conditional Use permit to open an Ike's Place.

"I think based on the results of the past Ike's locations just a couple blocks away, it seems like now overall the neighborhood doesn't want an Ike's," said Shehadeh.

"We love the Castro and people have been amazing—it's just you need more foot traffic," said Scott.


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