The first thing you’ll notice when walking up to Sweet Cooie’s is a story posted at its entrance. Written in a dark turquoise text and taking up almost four feet of the door, the epitaph describes the life of Paul Tamburello’s mother Elaine, aka Sweet Cooie. It begins with a simple statement: “Elaine Tamburello was a woman with gumption.”
This statement, while it might appear just as a sweet homage, is actually the impetus behind the opening of Little Man’s sister location. Because not only is it driven by heartfelt nostalgia and adoration for one woman, but it’s also dedicated to the idea of helping all women find their own “gumption.”
“Our purpose here is really about women and empowerment,” said Paul. “Not with anything we give. I don’t like the term empowerment in terms of what we give… it’s about trying to capture the essence of who you are as a woman and just doing anything we can to support you to be who you want to be.”
Paul elaborated, that just like its Scoop for Scoop program at Little Man, a portion of the proceeds of every scoop of ice cream will go to non-profits. However is instead of donating to international nutrition efforts like its LoHi brother, Sweet Cooie’s will raise money for local non-profits and international NGOs that focus on women.
“Our purpose here is to support women on their next great adventure,” said Paul explaining that one organization could include safe homes for victims of sex trafficking in Cambodia.
Among the flavors of these silver-lined scoops are its famous salted oreo, as well as eight (sometimes 10) new flavors just for this location. Sorbets and sherbets made with fresh squeezed juices are the highlight of the new menu along with handmade chocolates, freshly baked brioches and eclairs. There’s even a new offering that combines its ice cream with a brioche bun for a toasted ice cream sandwich called the Gooey Cooie ($5).
You can enjoy these sweet treats while admiring the dream-like vintage interior of the shop. Modeled off a 20th-century soda fountain, the space is warm, inviting and infinitely charming —much like the woman described on its door. And with a 300-song playlist of her favorite musicals and operas, as well as walls painted her favorite shade of blue, it’s not hard to feel as if you stepped into a memory spun by the grandmother herself. But as you get to talking to Paul, who grew up just down the street in Congress Park, you realize it is not only a tribute to her life but his as well.
“Coming back here is really home. I have so many memories of this corner in particular because of the pharmacy. We used to go door to door with all four of my siblings. We would ring the door bell and sing a song for a penny or a nickel and by the time we got all the way down here we had enough to buy candy,” he said.
Now Paul, who’s most known for this work in the LoHi neighborhood with Little Man (which is named after his father), has returned to his block to serve some sweet treats of his own. Lucky for us, and the women it benefits, the sweetness of Sweet Cooie’s will live on past the sugar rush.
All photography by Brittany Werges.
Sweet Cooie’s is located at 3506 East 12th Avenue, Denver. It’s open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.