Milk Dessert Bar owner Sharon Cohn’s lifelong love of baking was inspired by watching her grandmother whip up goodies in the kitchen. As a child, she watched her grandmother, who was blind, bake incredible desserts. “I thought it was amazing that she could do that without seeing,” Sharon says.
That memory stuck with her through the years, but it was until her father passed away that it resurfaced. “After my dad died, I wanted to do something to stress-release, so I started baking,” she says. Then after three years of baking, she began a catering company called Butter Bakery, which eventually led to her present venture: Milk Dessert Bar.
Sharon says she remembers 20 to 25 years ago when there were places you could go to get a late-night coffee and cheesecake as late as midnight, but no places in Memphis offered that anymore. That absence is why she wanted to give people the option of a late-night dessert. With family on both the East and West coasts, she’s traveled often throughout the years, which heavily influenced her desire to open the shop in Memphis. After noticing the unique ways that ice cream and hot chocolate drinks were being made in New York and L.A., she was inspired to do the same in Memphis. “I wanted to fill that gap — to kind of become the Willy Wonka of shakes and cookies.”
With a mix of vintage, modern and eclectic décor, not to mention board games and coloring books, Milk Dessert Bar immediately feels like home. The concept also comes from Sharon’s childhood. “When I was a kid and would go to my grandmother’s house, we would sit around and play games. The adults would have coffee, and we would have dessert and milk. I wanted to evoke that feeling,” she explains of the vibe.
Not only does Milk feel like home, but just about any dessert item you can dream of, from milkshakes and cookies to cakes and pies, are readily available. And there is no limit to what Sharon will try to create! While there are staple menu items, there is a constant creative zest that swirls around what will be created each day.
“Everything you see on the menu is the same, but the flavors can change,” says Sharon of the changing selection. “Every day we will have a cake, but tomorrow we may have a cake that has cookie dough or fruit filling inside.” She says they’re constantly asking themselves, What can we do today? The ideas are often impacted by what the trend of the day is. For example, if it’s National Ice Cream or Pineapple Day, she will try to create something with those ingredients. One of her recent creations, the lavender and honey cake, will likely become a staple on the menu because of its popularity. “I just like to try new things. I’ll make a bunch of things, and if it sells fast — the lavender and honey cake flew out the door — I kind of want to keep it as a staple and just add to the basic things.” Her main passion is offering items that are different and unique. She says, “I just like to have things that nobody else has.” Another great feature of the shop is that all of the items are customizable.
According to Sharon, some of the must-haves on the menu are the lace cookies and the gooey butter cookies. “The lace cookies were my family’s favorite,” she says. Extremely thin and crisp, they resemble a piece of lace. She also loves making cookie dough and highly recommends the Reese’s and pretzel bark. The shop allows up to three scoops of their cookie dough and ice cream but recently began offering half scoops to provide more options to mix and match flavors.
“I try to listen to what people say and go from there. I feel like we have a good variety,” says Sharon. While there is currently only one gluten-free option — the double-chocolate cookie — she hopes to eventually offer more gluten-free treats as well as vegan options. Sharon prides herself in being the only shop in the city with a “vortex machine,” which allows her to mix ice cream with any type of cereal or cookie dough, which translates into her mouthwatering shakes. There is endless deliciousness to look forward to in the coming months as the shop is currently working on new options for their fall menu — including unique twists on hot chocolate!
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Giving back to the community is also a passion and goal of Milk Dessert Bar. Each month, they offer different specials that benefit charitable organizations. Recently, they donated a percentage of sales to Dress for Success and plan to participate in Teacher Appreciation Week, offering a discount to visitors who drop off school supplies or make donations. All details of their upcoming events will be posted on their social media pages.
As for the future of the bar, Sharon is definitely thinking big. With dreams of mind-bending flavor combinations and eventual expansion, she is certainly fulfilling her dream of becoming Memphis’ Willy Wonka. One thing is certain: This confectionery genius truly loves what she does, and it definitely shows in her revelation: “Everyday I come here I’m like, I can’t wait to get to work!”
Visit Milk Dessert Bar at 1789 Kirby Pkwy., Ste. 10, Memphis, TN 38138. They are open Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. For more information, call (901) 730-0893 or visit milkdessertbar.com.
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