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Friday October 21st, 2011

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Enveloped in the delicious aroma of freshly baked honey bran muffins, I am warmed by the steaming cup of fresh coffee that sits before me on the old, refurbished table, and charmed by the antique feel of the eclectic decor and the calm assured presence of the cafe’s new owner. Yvette Atkinson is seated across from me as she describes the result of her deep passion for cooking and baking which surrounds us now.

Atkinson took over the sixty year Peerless Ice Cream tradition in Old Walkerville last June, and after observing the steep drop-off in visits from ice-cream lovers during the frosty winter months, she decided to make good on her long-time desire to own a cafe.

Atkinson closed Peerless in November 2010 for an extensive remodel and re-opened this February 19th 2011 with a new look, a new menu and a new name, “The Old Town Sweet Shop.” The Old Town seems to be making a comeback in Atkinson’s eyes, with the increase in businesses like Vito’s and the Gourmet Emporium coming into the area. The Old Town Sweet Shop has stepped in primarily to fill the after dinner coffee/dessert void.

Peerless Ice Cream enthusiasts need not fret however, Atkinson is proud to uphold the the long tradition, by continuing to offer ice cream during the summer months (May-October) and maintaining the famous peanut toffee sundaes and Saunder’s topping.

But now the location has year-long appeal with its specialty coffees, fair-trade teas, paninis, quiche, soup, smoothies, some light breakfast items and of course an ever changing array of delicious baked goods.

The new menu is Atkinson’s creation; the product of many late-night cooking sessions with friends during the remodel. The willing test subjects would come by to sample the newly invented dishes created by Atkinson. “We’d test out different things,” she explains, “and they’d yay or nay whatever we were cooking.” The result is a small, lovingly crafted menu which uses organic and local products wherever possible. Atkinson’s favoured creation is the Hippie Panini, a vegetarian option consisting of red pepper puree, smoked provolone, baby spinach, cucumber, tomato, sweet onion and boursin. In the name of journalistic integrity I sampled the sandwich and found the late-night sessions to have been a success, producing this fine sandwich composed of a fresh, smooth blend of flavours and vegetables. Of course I couldn’t ignore the shop’s primary focus, the sweets, so I also indulged in a rich, German chocolate brownie with a light chocolate icing infused with bits of coconut. I can now also vouch for Atkinson’s delicious baking talent.

The shop’s new look was also designed by Atkinson who explains, “I just wanted it to feel warm and cozy when people come in…I like things that are a little eclectic, a little artsy and that’s what the neighborhood calls for.” Among her decor finds are a 19th century slate fireplace obtained from a gentleman dealing antiques out of his home, an original cabinet from the former Nut House on Ouellette and a church pew from habitat for humanity which rests against the rough brick wall.

These treasures and the fresh new menu can be experienced Tuesday to Thursday 8a.m. to 10p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 8a.m. to 10p.m. and Sundays from 10a.m. to 6p.m. The Old Town Sweet Shop is located at 1801 Wyandotte Street East.

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