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Jax Daily Record Friday, Nov. 18, 202212:00 AM EST

Sweet future for Sorrento as Country Harvest Desserts moves in

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Owner Jonathan Eddy intends to add public access — and space to make 1,000 pies and cakes a week.

A bittersweet closing created a sweet opportunity.

Jonathan and Rachel Eddy bought Sorrento Italian Restaurant in early 2020 but closed the more than 30-year-old neighborhood Italian restaurant Aug. 28 after it could not overcome pandemic challenges.

“We are sentimental about the business. It was sad and bittersweet for us to close it,” said Jonathan Eddy.

“We had some great staff members, but it also was a really challenging environment. Several of us have families and young kids, so being open in the evening and being full service, it was tough.”

Owner Jonathan Eddy is renovating the former Sorrento restaurant into Country Harvest Desserts and intends to open to the public.

The decision allows Eddy to double down on his bakery business, Country Harvest Desserts, which the Eddys bought in early 2019.

The dessert bakery makes cakes, pies, brownies, quiche and sausage pastries for restaurants, hotels, country clubs and retirement communities.

The purchase and renovation of the Sorrento space means Country Harvest Desserts can convert the building for a bakery to serve a larger wholesale customer base, and also open to the public.

The Eddys originally bought Sorrento for use as a bakery but opted to keep operating it as a restaurant.

“We fell in love with Sorrento,” said Jonathan Eddy. “Instead of turning it into a bakery we continued operating it as a restaurant.”

Now that Sorrento is closed, the Eddys will move Country Harvest from a smaller commercial space in East Arlington to the former Sorrento space at 6943 St. Augustine Road in the San Jose area.

Sorrento Italian Restaurant closed Aug. 28 after it could not overcome pandemic challenges.

“We need more space. We have some great customers, but we are short on space and the capacity to meet those needs,” Eddy said.

He said the timing of Sorrento’s closure was to be able to renovate and open Country Harvest in time for the year-end holiday rush.

His goal is to open in early December.

R. Hartwig Construction LLC is the contractor for the renovations of Sorrento.

The city is reviewing a permit for interior demolition to prepare for the build-out. 

When the Eddys originally were looking for a larger bakery space in 2019, they found Sorrento for sale. 

Colliers International Senior Director Gary Montour represented the restaurant’s seller, Luciano Russo Sr., in the transaction.

Russo “seemed to take a liking to me, and I was sentimental about his business,” Jonathan Eddy said.

“We just love the authenticity and the old-world charm that he had instilled in the business,” he said.

“We pretty quickly determined we would operate it as a restaurant, then COVID occurred.”

Space to make 1,000 cakes and pies a week

CountryHarvestDesserts.com says it has been providing First Coast restaurants “with fine cakes and desserts since 1991.”

Eddy said the bakery makes its products from scratch.

Desserts include the signature chocolate mousse cakes, cheesecakes, layer cakes, French tarts, sheet cakes and special items from pies to dessert shooters to individual desserts.

The kitchen also makes products like sausage kolaches.

“It really is a pretty old-school traditional bakery,” Eddy said recently, adding that the kitchen just received 120 dozen fresh eggs.

The carrot cakes each have nearly a pound of freshly grated carrots.

All of the desserts are made for other organizations, and the relationships are discreet.

“We are their dessert kitchen. As such we maintain a low profile,” Eddy said.

The kitchen also makes products like sausage kolaches.

“A lot of places around town, if you eat dessert, you are eating something we took a part in.”

The Eddys lease a private commercial baking facility along Atlantic Boulevard near St. Johns Bluff Road.

It is not open to the public, and the name is not on the door.

Most weeks, Country Harvest Desserts produces 250-500 cakes and pies in less than 1,500 square feet.

Eddy is building-out the new bakery to ensure capacity for 1,000 a week, working “our way up to that by earning more business and adding bakers.”

The Sorrento building is 3,600 square feet of space, and the Eddys will renovate about 2,500 square feet for the bakery.

Country Harvest Desserts Chef Emily Holt.

A salon leases the rest of the building.

There also is space on the site for expansion.

Being a private entity, Eddy declined to disclose revenue or the investment in renovations for Country Harvest Desserts.

Opening to the public for a piece or the whole pie

The Eddys registered The Florida Sweet Spot LLC with the state in April 2019. 

Through Eddy Holdings LLC, the Eddys paid $550,000 for the St. Augustine Road property in March 2020.

They bought the building, developed in 1969, from Sorrento Italian Restaurant Inc., led by Luciano Russo Sr. as president.

Luciano and Joanne Russo incorporated the company in 1991, having opened a smaller version of Sorrento in the late 1980s.

The Eddys are renovating the restaurant into a larger bake shop that can sell desserts to the public as well as provide a small place to sit, have coffee and “hang out for a minute.”

Jonathan Eddy said Country Harvest Desserts has five full- and part-time employees and he will add a few around the holidays.

A display case will showcase the desserts.

There will be a counter that serves slices, cookies, snacks and other items. Whole cakes and pies also will be available for purchase.

“Our goal is that people will be able to partake in the bake-shop feel,” Eddy said. 

“They would get a feel for the energy of the cakes we are decorating that day, eat a slice and take one home.”

Customers can grab a slice or buy the whole cake or pie.

“We will have stock every day based on what we are producing and what we’ve determined to have ready for that day,” he said.

“Being that we have wholesale in the back, we should be able to replenish quickly.”

He hopes to branch into Danish pastries and croissants.

Eddy said Country Harvest Desserts has five full- and part-time employees and he will add a few around the holidays.

He expects to close Sunday-Monday and operate for retail Tuesday-Saturday. The wholesale operation will have different hours.

He said he is finalizing details for the menu and pricing for the public, but he plans “to keep the Country Harvest tradition aiming to bake in the perfect balance of quality and value.”

Country Harvest Desserts will develop a selection of the products it will sell to the public and decide how to accept orders.

“Everyone has a unique item that grandma used to make, but we are going to have to curate a menu that everybody will love but based on what we are capable of manufacturing.”

A big year-end on the menu

The Eddys, both turning 40 this year, have six children from age 15 to twins age 4.

Jonathan Eddy’s background is in the commercial food side of the business, having imported seafood for 15 years, working with the family at Beacon Fisheries Inc. and the Fisherman’s Dock Seafood Market.

He has not been to culinary school.

“I am blessed with our baking and decorating staff. They are in a lot of ways the experts.”

Former Bleu Chocolat Cafe co-owner and chef Erika Cline, who operated the Springfield restaurant before closing it almost three years ago, works closely with Country Harvest Desserts.

He also works closely with former Bleu Chocolat Cafe co-owner and chef Erika Cline, who operated the Springfield restaurant before closing it almost three years ago.

Cline is a credentialed pastry chef, contestant and judge on network baking challenges, and a cook at the James Beard House in New York City. 

She also is a chocolatier, and Eddy hopes eventually to add some of her confections to the Sorrento location.

He said Cline is the inspiration behind many of his products and the renovation project.

He said Cline recently moved from Jacksonville for family reasons, “but remains a big part of our culinary family and helps provide motivation and direction even from afar.”

He said chef Emily Holt “stepped up and impressed all of us with her energy, resourcefulness and creative.” In addition to decorating, she oversees most culinary aspects of the business. 

Country Harvest Desserts owner Jonathan Eddy said delivery driver Thomas Cody “is appreciated not only for his driving (apparently never needing directions), but also for bringing a positive vibe to the kitchens where he delivers.

Shannon Gilliam is the head baker and Thomas Cody is the longtime delivery driver and “the face of the company.”

“He is known for his dry humor and often makes you listen to his daily joke before accepting the delivery,” Eddy said.

For now, the Eddys look forward to the holiday rush and celebrations.

Jonathan Eddy turns 40 in November, not long before “we are moved in.”

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