Photo by Frances Castellon, Staff Photographer
Sweet Alley has always been a solid post-Freebirds dessert choice on a Friday night. Who can resist making their inner 5-year-old self proud by buying fistfuls of candy without mommy’s permission?
This is a happy place with tons of eye candy to satisfy all your sweet tooth cravings. The biggest dilemma you will face is: Do I want candy or frozen yogurt today? (The answer is always both.)
Your first experience here can be a bit overwhelming. There’s so much to choose from: between the fresh coffee, candy bins and bars, ice cream, frozen yogurt, toppings, cookies and sorbet, there’s no real way to go wrong! If you don’t know where to start, owner Nicholas Mason says, “Anything mixed with our honey-greek is godly … Everyone knows it.”
However, not everybody knows that this sweet shop went under a temporary hiatus late last year. Since its closure, it has re-opened with a new face whom everyone welcomed with open arms.
When Sweet Alley closed its doors, current owner and UCSB alumnus Nicholas Mason saw an opportunity to resurrect it under a new image. He had been a customer at Sweet Alley during his undergraduate years, and had enough motivation to bring it back better than ever. “The concept needed a bit of tweaking and some young energy,” said Mason, “Isla Vista is sprawling with opportunity given the right circumstances”
The new image and decor is definitely a winner here in Isla Vista. It features a cozy, welcoming atmosphere. Repurposed wood gives the place an earthy feel and a hipster vibe. The staff is welcoming, friendly and more than happy to assist you in the sea of sweets. Their patience goes a long way — especially for indecisive people like myself.
“It was a trial-by-fire experience,” Mason recalled. “We opened the doors on day one, after a few months of renovations and re-tooling the business model. A customer ordered a scoop of ice cream and I had no idea how to scoop. In a way it worked to my advantage. We were really able to hone-in on what students wanted…and deliver.”
Between the time he attended UCSB until he began working in the shop, Mason has seen a lot of changes in the Isla Vista community. “It goes without saying that the community has been inundated with changes. From security to gentrification, both good and bad. At the end of the day, my heart is with the student body. Nothing will function without the students behind it. Old people do not rule here.”
Mason sees a bright future ahead for Sweet Alley — and he has every right to. “Right now, I’m focused on creating a long-term business with a heart in Isla Vista. I want it to become a fixture far beyond what it already is. We are tooling with the model, and we’re going to do a bit of rebranding and open new stores throughout the West coast soon.”
The class of 2011 graduate in economics and global studies offers some great advice to those who wish to pursue their own business: “Just f***ing do it! Absolutely avoid analysis paralysis…It will ruin you and any opportunity knocking.”
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You can find Sweet Alley at 955 Embarcadero del Mar, open 12 PM to 10 PM daily.