Bitter news for Sweet Shop

Austin's rising costs freeze out long-running Hyde Park gelato shop and bar

Austin's rising costs freeze out long-running Hyde Park gelato shop

Austin Photo: Places_Drinks_Dolce Vita_exterior
Dolce Vida has been a Hyde Park staple for more than two decades. Photo by Matthew Rutledge

The sweet life is over for a Hyde Park neighborhood staple. Dolce Vita Gelato & Espresso has confirmed to CultureMap that the coffee shop and bar will be closing sometime in October. The news was first announced via Facebook on September 14.

The small cafe, located in the same Duval Street shopping area as other long-running Austin concepts like Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery and Asti, first opened in 1995 under founders Bick and Erika Brown, the owners of nearby Hyde Park Bar & Grill.

Beverly Gonzales and Pascal Nicolas took over in 2006, but the shop maintained much of the same character, offering cocktails, coffee, panini, and desserts and gelato based on recipes from proprietor (and Erika’s mother), Concetta Mastroianni.

But in the more two decades since opening, Austin has undergone rapid changes. Chief among them for mom-and-pop restaurateurs has been a sharp increase in the costs of doing business, a change which ultimately did Dolce Vita in.

"We are not closing by choice, but because of the restrictions of our current situation,” the company said in a statement to CultureMap. “If we could stay open, we would.”

According to the shop, those restrictions include increased rent and additional demands from the landlord, including having to shoulder the cost of repairs, renovations, and “forced expansion.” The increasing burden made it impossible for the owners to renew the lease for another year.

The pair tried to find a new storefront, but that proved to be too costly as well. They are now considering selling the business so it can live on in a new location.

Dolce Vita's last day largely depends on how much equipment it is able to sell and the timeline for removing the rest of the furnishings. The owners must vacate the space by November 1 and will announce the final date via the shop's social media channels.

The closure is another blow to the local hospitality scene. In the past year, some of the city’s most iconic restaurants have been forced to shutter while upscale chains — mostly owned outside of Austin — are increasingly becoming the norm.

The cultural shift is reflected in Dolce Vita's statement. “We are completely heartbroken at the loss of our family business,” it reads, “yet grateful for the over two decades we were able to serve the community we love so dearly.”