Home » Business » The changing face of downtown Miami

The changing face of downtown Miami

The interior of the Lyric Soda Fountain in Miami is like a step back in time. The Lyric is a project of Miami arts advocate Joanna TwentyThree. Photo by LCGross

The business atmosphere in Miami is getting sweeter by the day, as two new shops have opened that will satisfy a sweet tooth, or the lunch urges, of residents and visitors alike.

Both Sweet Memories and the Lyric Soda Fountain offer an array of locally made sweets, ice cream, coffee and other menu items and are making tasty inroads into the community. And both businesses are locally owned by people steeped in the community.

For those seeking freshly baked treats, or just a place to sit and browse the internet with a hot cup of coffee, Sweet Memories has set up shop on Sullivan Street in the building that once housed Mitzi’s Tax Service.

The shop is owned by Miami native Lisa Remos, who also owns My Mom’s House Dzynes, operating out of the house where she grew up in Miami.

Longtime Miami businesswoman Lisa Remos and her daughter Desirea are making Sullivan Street a little bit sweeter with Sweet Memories. Photo by LCGross

The new endeavor is a project Remos has dreamed of for quite some time and with the help of her daughters, Desirea, Dionna, and Denise, the dream has finally come true.

“It’s just adding a little bit more to Miami,” Remos says. “That’s been my biggest thing, just trying to add one more little business that’s not antiques. A lot of people come to Miami for the antiques.”

Since Sweet Memories opened on September 15, visitors to downtown Miami have a new place to take a break as they shop for antiques or other sundries that features hot coffee, cold, freshly squeezed lemonade and ice cream.

But the real draw will be for the baked goodies that include popular items such as Dionna’s chocolate chip walnut cookies and cheesecake as well as a menu full of gluten-free, allergen-free, and vegan desserts.

Sweet Memories caters to community pride with these Vandal-themed treats. Courtesy photo

Remos is a product of Miami and her life is a reflection of her upbringing in the community. Her father, Albert, worked in the mines, while her mother, Miami native Mary, drove the Miami school bus for 18 years. To supplement the family’s income, Mary operated a small upholstery business out of the house that would become My Mom’s House DZynes.

In addition to overseeing two businesses in Miami now, Remos works at the hospital pharmacy. Daughter Denise lives in Mesa and runs My Mom’s House Dzynes while Dionna and Desirea help with Sweet Memories. Desirea lives in Pima and works in San Carlos and helps on her days off and Dionna recently moved back to Miami from Gilbert.

For the family though, it’s about making Miami’s downtown look more attractive to residents and visitors alike.

“You see people walking around, trying to clean up a little bit and doing what they need to do,” Remos says. “But people are definitely coming to Miami now to see what’s going on.”

She points to other businesses popping up and galleries, such as the one owned by local artist Jim Coates, as a sign that better things are coming to the Town of Miami.

Another fresh business Remos highlights is the Lyric Soda Fountain, owned and operated by longtime Miami arts champion Joanna TwentyThree.

In 2007, Michael and Joanna TwentyThree co-founded Miami Art Works, offering a mix of studios, living spaces, and a gallery.

They eventually moved the family up from the Valley, hoping to create a vibrant arts community to rival other old mining towns such as Bisbee, where the arts have become vital in post-mining rural Arizona economies.

The couple founded the Miami Loco Festival and became active in the nonprofit Miami Arts Commission.

They bought the building that would become the Lyric in 2020, but the COVID pandemic halted the forward momentum of the project, which gave them time to take a more measured approach to what they intended to do with the space.

“We bought the building with the intention of just reopening it to sell ice cream, and then a week later, the pandemic happened and everything closed,” she says. “So we decided to take the time to gather the equipment we needed to be able to serve lunch, as well as just ice cream.”

The time allowed them to purchase equipment and also to sell their house in Phoenix to move to Miami full-time.

At the beginning of 2023, the TwentyThrees’ goal was to be open in April in time for the Loco Fest, which they ultimately did, and in subsequent months the Lyric served its fare to the people of Miami.

Michael TwentyThree’s—often spelled “23”—untimely death in June at the age of 53 threw Joanna into a state of shock, but she realized she needed to continue the project they had dreamed of for so long.

“It feels like this is what we’ve built together,” TwentyThree says. “After I passed the shock, it seemed like a no-brainer to keep it open. When we opened he had this sense that if anything happened to him, his family would be provided for. It took a load off his mind for our continued financial survival in the face of losing him. So it also honors his legacy.”

Helping Joanna TwentyThree continue the artistic vision is Huntington Beach, California native and two-year Miami resident Amanda Rae, who decided she needed to change her life in the wake of COVID.

Amanda Rae serves up sasparillas and ice cream floats at the Lyric Soda Fountain in Miami. Photo by LCGross.

Rae moved to Miami on the advice of a friend who knew Michael TwentyThree for more than 30 years. She works in watercolor, mixed media, ceramics and pottery, landscape oil painting and art education and spent most of her life teaching art in Southern California.

But after she became an “empty-nester,” Rae sold her house and traveled for a while before landing in Miami and renting a living space in the Art Works. Her background includes teaching, but she cut her teeth in the arts world working in a small coffee shop her mother owned known as Jams.

The move from the coastal climate of Southern California to rural Arizona has been refreshing for Rae, as she feels much more welcome in her new community than the one she lived in her entire life.

“I lived in the same house for 37 years and raised two kids there that whole time,” Rae says. “There’s people I lived next door to that whole time I never even made eye contact with. In Miami, if you’ve been here a week, people come up and introduce themselves, so there’s been that sense of community right from the beginning.”

She also sees continuing Michael TwentyThree’s legacy as an important thing for Miami and thinks Joanna is uniquely suited to the task.

“This was just as much Joanna’s hopes and dreams as it was Michael’s,” Rae says. “She’s a dynamic and interesting conceptual artist herself that has really made this community, so it’s definitely still alive.”

In addition to Art Works, the Lyric and the art gallery with a stage for performances, Joanna TwentyThree has another indoor venue in the works that will be called 23 SkiDoo, but that is “a work in progress.”

For now, the focus is to make Miami a more attractive, and economically viable place to live, work and enjoy the arts.

“Michael cared a lot about trying to revitalize Miami, and it feels like this business goes a long way towards improving people’s perception of this place, and the deliverability of it,” she says. “Having somewhere to go eat and hang out is really important for people in the place where they live and I do feel it fosters community.”

The Lyric Soda Fountain is open Thursday through Sunday as of press time, although TwentyThree says she hopes to add Wednesday to the schedule soon. Information can be found at www.facebook.com/thelyricsodafountain.

 

**UPDATE:  The Lyric has added Wednesdays, so their hours are Wed, Thurs,Frid from 8am – 7pm  and Sat/Sunday 10am – 7pm

Sweet Memories hours can be found at www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100077508071112, or by calling 928-473-1988.

**UPDATE: Sweet Memories is currently open Saturdays and Sundays

Homemade chocolate chip cookies with mint ice cream is just one of the many treats that can be found at the Lyric Soda Fountain in downtown Miami. Courtesy photo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *