by Kristen Mott
(Plain Press, May 2011) A throwback to the 1920s is now open in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. Sweet Moses, which opened at the end of March, is a 1920s-style soda fountain shop named after Moses Cleaveland. Its authentic feeling borrows from the history of the building itself.
Located at 6800 Detroit Ave., the building was originally constructed in 1907. Built in two phases, the front served as a storefront in the Italian neighborhood while the back, added on 10 years later, was used as an apartment. During restoration, owner Jeffrey Moreau discovered original door paneling dating back to the store’s beginning. This discovery spurred the wave of vintage items now furnishing the soda shop. “I didn’t want this store to become a stage,” explained Moreau. “I wanted a few key focal pieces.”
These period-style focal pieces create a nostalgic atmosphere within the shop. The center of the store features an authentic soda fountain used during the 1930s at Wise Drugstore in Tennessee. Complete with an ash gray marble countertop, a bright stained glass bar mirror, and a colorful array of vintage syrup bottles, the store models itself after soda shops that were popular decades ago.
The booths in the side room of Sweet Moses were rescued from a Pennsylvania candy store and restored to reveal the natural wood hidden beneath layers of paint. A root beer barrel from the 1940s, swivel bar stools, a gilded antique cash register and sweetheart wrought iron chairs complete the interior design.
Moreau also highlights the history of Cleveland within Sweet Moses. Photographs of the West Side Market and the East 9th St. Edgewater pier line the walls. Cleveland postcards dating back to the 1950s are sold at the front of the store, along with books of Cleveland history that document the changes in the city from 1908 to the present.
The genuine feeling carries over into the food, as Moreau and his employees create smooth homemade ice cream, refreshing frozen yogurt, rich dark chocolate fudge sauce and sweet caramel popcorn.
The sundaes even pay homage to the surrounding neighborhoods with names like “Shoreway Sundae” “The Gordon Square” and “Terminal Tower,” which is served with a whopping 10 scoops of classic ice cream flavors.
A wooden display case in the front of the store features an assortment of chocolate barks, such as white chocolate almond and rocky road, and chocolate filled cups, which range from mint chocolate chip to chocolate peanut butter cups topped with mini Ritz Bits sandwiches.
The menu is rounded out with classic barrel floats, glasses of ice cold milk, signature English toffee, and peanut butter sandwiches that can be customized with items such as crushed potato chips, marshmallow creme or slices of bacon.
The soft humming of the milkshake machine and the metal clinking of ice cream scoops are sounds that will resonate with the young and old alike, which is exactly what Moreau sought to create.
“I want my mother, who is 83-years-old, to walk in and have it be reminiscent of her childhood,” said Moreau. “I also wanted to design it so kids, who have never been exposed to this time period before, will walk in and get excited.”
Moreau said he hopes Sweet Moses will attract a late-night crowd. He wants patrons to stop by after watching a movie at one of the nearby theatres or eating dinner at a local restaurant, and relax at the end of their evening by purchasing a sweet treat.
He added that he is optimistic that the destination will be popular amongst college students who are in the city looking for a late-night snack, especially as store hours are increased during the summer months.
Sweet Moses contributes to the development plan of the Gordon Square Arts District. The area has seen a growth in the number of art boutiques, wine bars, and coffee shops in the past few years. The development initiative hopes to revitalize the neighborhood and commercial district by increasing the number of patrons that visit the area.
Sweet Moses is open Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to 11 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m.