Sweet EM's Coffee and Ice Cream Will Bring Just That to Dogtown

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Megan Cobb, left, and Erika Darrough are going into business together. - COURTESY OF SWEET EM'S
  • COURTESY OF SWEET EM'S
  • Megan Cobb, left, and Erika Darrough are going into business together.

Sisters Erika Darrough and Megan Cobb had long dreamed of opening a cafe together. Growing up in the family that owned Seamus McDaniel's, they'd play restaurant the way other kids might play school. "We're in Bisniz," they wrote on a hand-lettered sign.

Now they're finally getting their wish. In the next few weeks, they plan to open the doors to their brand-new cafe in Dogtown, Sweet EM's Coffee and Ice Cream (6330 Clayton Avenue). And since someone in their family saved that "Bisniz" sign, they say it might even become part of the decor.

"We had that entrepreneurial spirit since we were young," says Darrough, laughing.

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And for the sisters, it's also a dream come true to be achieving their dream in Dogtown. They grew up in the south city neighborhood, attending St. James the Greater School, and still live close by. "Our whole family still lives there," says Cobb, 30.


Their knowledge of the neighborhood helped to inspire their concept.

"We hear what people in Dogtown are saying. They say, 'We need an ice cream shop' and 'We need a coffee shop," Darrough, 34, says.

They decided to address both needs, offering a coffee bar with Kaldi's products and a full array of Wisconsin-based Cedar Crest Ice Cream. They hope it will become a neighborhood hangout where people get their latte in the morning on the way to work and a cone with the kids at night.

Cobb, who has previously managed a coffee shop, will be working at the shop full-time; Darrough, who works in sales, will assist with the business end of things in her off hours. It's Cobb who steered her sister toward Cedar Crest; she became an ice cream expert during a pregnancy where she craved the stuff and is confident their customers are going to be blown away by its richer, creamier flavor. "We went with this ice cream because it's delicious," she says.

They've put in a fair amount of work to get the storefront ready for opening; formerly O'Malley's Irish Shop, renovations included adding a small kitchen and building a coffee bar. The sisters say they've been overwhelmed by the community support they've received.

"It was a little bit of work, and by a little bit, I mean a lot of work," Cobb says. "But so many people came in and let us know, 'If you need help, I'm here.' It was kind of emotional for me. As I see what it is today compared to where we started, I know we could not have done that without the support of the community."

The pair hope to have a soft opening in the coming weeks, with a grand opening scheduled for April 7. Going forward, they intend to open every day at 7 a.m., closing on weekdays at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. During peak summer hours, they may expand that — and in time, they may expand their offerings too. But for now, they plan to take things slow and see how their beloved neighborhood responds.

In the mean time, there's just one thing they want their future customers to know. "Sweet EM's" name, they note, is not a reference to Parks & Rec's Sweetums. Instead, it's a combination of their initials.

Darrough had talked at one point about opening a bakery called Sweet E's, referencing her own first initial. When they brainstormed names, Cobb said they should just go with that. Darrough refused to name the business without an "M" for Megan, too. They tried out "Sweet EMs" to incorporate both, and when their Facebook page gained hundreds of followers, they started to realize they were on to something. "We named it that as a placeholder, but then I was like, 'I really like this,'" Darrough says.

Follow Sweet EM's Facebook page for updates and news on the opening.

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