The frozen treat has been drawing local residents, sunbathed lifeguards, Sunday church-goers and coastal tourists to Newport Beach for decades. And now the self-proclaimed home of the original frozen banana is celebrating its 75th anniversary.
Sugar ’n Spice, a Balboa Island landmark known for its chocolate-dipped frozen bananas and other goodies, is the older of two establishments that sell chilly bananas near the island’s entrance. The other is Dad’s Donut & Bakery Shop.
To celebrate the momentous anniversary and the generations of patrons who have enjoyed its iconic treats, which include dipped ice cream Balboa Bars, Sugar ’n Spice will roll back prices on the frozen bananas to 75 cents March 27, co-owner Will Alovis said.
“One of the great things about the shop is its history and how everyone who grew up down here has an attachment to it,” Alovis said. “It’s really gratifying.”
Alovis and his wife, Courtney, took over operations of Sugar ’n Spice five years ago from Courtney’s mother, Helen Connolly.
Though the shop’s long reputation for frosty goods runs strong, the new ownership is determined to take the business into the future.
The couple started catering when they took over, an enterprise that Connolly hadn’t attempted, they said.
They attended fundraisers and other events with a table where patrons could customize bananas, Balboa Bars and frozen cheesecake on a stick. Groups could order dipped and packaged frozen desserts for events.
In 2019, Sugar ’n Spice rolled out its version of a food truck — the “Dip N’ Roll” van, which goes to events.
“What people like about the shop is that it’s custom, it’s done right in front of them,” Will said.
When Connolly bought the business in 1995, Sugar ’n Spice offered four sizes of bananas, with prices ranging from $1.50 to $3.
“Now we only have one size, extra large ... to streamline the whole process,” Courtney said.
Today, a frozen chocolate-covered banana dipped in another topping costs $4.50.
In the early 1940s, Bob and Dot Cook paid $400 for the property at 310 Marine Ave. that now houses the bright blue concessionaire, the Alovises said. When the Cooks bought it during wartime, building materials weren’t available and they had a prefabricated home delivered to the property and soon began operating their business, Dot & Bob’s Candy Shop, the Alovises said.
In 1945, the Cooks sold their shop and it became Sugar ’n Spice, according to the business’s website.
Connolly bought it from Bettie Banto and moved from Catalina Island to live in the home attached to the shop.
Connolly, who lived there until six months ago, ran the shop for 20 years until age 77. The Alovises then moved from Santa Monica to Newport Beach and pivoted from careers in the entertainment industry to dipping frozen treats.
“It’s interesting ... how many people come by that tell you that this was their first job. We’ve met 100 people, easy,” Will said.
Other events to celebrate the anniversary include participating in the Balboa Island Parade and an anticipated visit by the Big Banana Car when its cross-country tour brings it to Southern California.
What else might 2020 hold for Sugar ’n Spice?
“The year is young; let’s see what happens,” Will said.