Balboa Island’s Sugar ’n Spice goes up for sale; owners hope to keep it alive
It was a perfect day for frozen bananas.
The sun finally emerged Thursday after days of rain. Although temperatures were still hanging low, customers bundled up in jackets and visited Balboa Island’s Sugar ’n Spice, which bustled with activity because owners Will and Courtney Alovis are selling the business and decided a unique send-off would be a giveaway of its iconic treat.
Will Alovis said the sale is “just because it was time” and that the two made the decision last summer but didn’t reach out to a real estate firm until late last year. He said the sale is at least partially motivated by the recent death of some friends; their passing gave the couple a new perspective on life.
“We just realized how short life is and we need to not work ourselves to death. [We wanted] time to enjoy life and do stuff we love. I don’t think we’re going to retire fully,” Courtney Alovis said, adding that she and her husband plan on staying local even after the sale is made.
The two worked in Hollywood for about 30 years prior to taking up the mantle of frozen banana proprietors in 2015, after Courtney Alovis’ mother, Helen Connolly, fell ill.
Connolly purchased the brand in 1995 and was the third owner of Sugar ’n Spice, which originally opened in 1945. The hope, the Alovises said, is to keep the business alive through its next owner, though they acknowledge there is no real way of knowing what will transpire after the property is purchased.
But until it is, the Alovis family will continue operations as usual.
“There’s a rumor going around that we’re closing down. No, no, no — we’re staying here until the new owner, whoever that is, takes over so it’s going to be seamless,” Courtney Alovis said.
The mixed-use property, which includes a house in the back, was listed with Compass Wednesday night at $3.49 million. The Sugar ’n Spice business itself will be listed at $1.5 million.
Listing agent Annie Clougherty said a number of Newport Beach families have expressed interested in the property, which she said was iconic not only to visitors but to herself.
“I grew up on Balboa Island, at 212 Opal, and it’s just like there’s not that many places left like this, where it feels, [considering it’s] in Newport Beach and in Orange County, this is a small town,” Clougherty said. “It was like this in 1945 and it’s still like this. I feel like that’s the bygone era that people love and want to keep around. So many people have said, ‘It’s such a shame if this goes away,’ and I think no one wants it to go away. So, that’s what makes it special. There’s a pride of ownership with every family that’s owned it, and [they] always own it for so long.
“It’s just a part of the fabric of Newport.”
Corona del Mar residents Bill and Mary Lee Gair said they visited the business Thursday because they’d heard about the giveaway. The Gairs said their granddaughter used to work at the shop, which led them to become regular customers.
Ly Do, who came with her daughter, Jennifer, said they moved to Newport Beach years ago, and that one of the first things they noticed on Balboa Island was that Sugar ’n Spice and Dad’s Donut & Bakery Shop were just a few storefronts apart.
“Every time I bring friends here, they always ask who’s the original, and I don’t know,” Ly Do said, laughing. “But, Sugar ’n Spice always seems to have a longer line, so maybe it’s just a timing thing, but people can draw their own conclusions.”
Jennifer Do said she likes Sugar ’n Spice because it is one-of-a-kind. She pointed to the Bluth’s Original Frozen Banana Stand featured in the TV series “Arrested Development,” which pulls inspiration from Sugar n’ Spice and Dad’s Donut & Bakery Shop.
“It’s something that’s so unique to Newport and iconic that people even emulated it on a television show. And then, people come here and they really want to visit it for that. It’s just really cool,” Do said.
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