Savannah Longenbach has had a lifelong love for sweets. Ice cream, fudge, gummy bears, you name it, she’s a self-described addict of the treats.
She’s also had an idea for her entire life to open an ice cream parlor, where kids and adults alike can take a step back into time and marvel at the numerous offerings at the soda fountain bar while flipping on some tunes from the jukebox before taking their sundaes out to the patio and sit on the cool grass in the shade.
That dream is coming true.
Longenbach recently signed a lease to open Savvy’s Downtown Sweets at 7357 Monterey St. in downtown Gilroy, a spot that’s been known as the Porcella’s building for 130 years, housing a general store, bar and later a music store.
Porcella’s Music shut its doors in March 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent health orders from state and county officials forced owner Dave Porcella into early retirement.
The building had been listed for sale since then until it was recently purchased by David Leal, who then put it up for lease.
Longenbach and her family moved from San Jose to Gilroy seven years ago, with her and her husband Darin both working in social services.
But after surviving breast cancer, Longenbach said her priorities changed, realizing that she needed to focus on her community and family.
The candy dream once again resurfaced, and Longenbach said she wanted to become the “Willy Wonka of Gilroy.”
After looking at buildings downtown, Longenbach came across the Porcella’s spot and immediately fell in love with it.
“I knew it was perfect,” she said. “The bricks, the awning. It already has the look of an ice cream parlor.”
Longenbach’s passion for nostalgia (think Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and other mid-century icons) will be front and center at Savvy’s Downtown Sweets. Vintage decor will cover the space, including many items donated by Porcella that once graced the building in the early 20th century.
Sundaes will be served in glassware, while a soda bar will be situated on one side of the building, and across from it will be display cases of specialty chocolates and other goodies.
Music will also be an important part of the shop, including a jukebox, while cafe-style seating will be throughout, including at the front windows facing Monterey Street.
The outdoor patio in the back of the building will feature various activities for children and families, including a jigsaw puzzle, hula hoops, board games and more.
“I want this to be a destination spot,” Longenbach said. “I want people to feel that Savvy’s is a friend, where they can come and just relax.”
Longenbach is eyeing an early spring 2024 opening, and light demolition work is already taking place inside the building. Stefanie Okada-McCabe is the designer for the project, while R. Vargas Construction is the contractor.
On Monday afternoon, Longenbach met with Porcella and Yvette Chavez, who managed the music store for 15 years. As Porcella was showing her how to lower the awning in front of the building, Longenbach noted that Porcella and Chavez will have free ice cream for life once Savvy’s opens.
“We’re very excited to support Savannah’s dream,” Porcella said. “It’s our dream too to see this in the building.”
Savvy’s will serve a dual purpose, Longenbach noted. In addition to being a place that puts smiles on children’s faces, it will also host various events such as bike giveaways for youth, ice cream-making parties and more, while also offering discounts for seniors and veterans. It will also be dedicated to animal causes, Longenbach said, and will have a pet-friendly patio complete with ice cream cones for dogs.
“It’s about ice cream and candy and smiles, but also, we are going to be inclusive of the entire community,” she said. “We are going to give back to the community to make sure we are maximizing that space for the benefit of everyone.”
For information, visit instagram.com/savvysdowntownsweets.