After 27 years at its original midtown location, Rick's Dessert Diner is relocating. But it's not going far.
The '50s-style diner, known for "mile-high" cakes and an overflowing late-night crowd, this fall will become the anchor tenant at the three-story building at the northeast corner of 24th and J streets - about a block from its current site at 2322 K St.
The move was necessary because growing demand had outstripped capacity at the 1,900-square-foot original location, said Ahmed Eita, who started out working at Rick's as a manager and then bought the business in 1991.
"It breaks my heart to leave after all these years," Eita said. But he said doubling his space will allow him to increase sales of all of his confections, including wedding cakes, and meet a demand he's had to ignore.
"I have to turn down customers, and that makes me feel bad," said Eita, who is 54 and a native of Egypt.
Eita said he plans to transplant Rick's classic design scheme - booths, jukebox, checkerboard floors and murals of 1950s entertainment icons - to the new place. "But it will be nicer and bigger," he said.
The building exterior also will get a face-lift to give it an updated, but retro, look, said Ken Turton, the Sacramento broker who found the new site for Eita and also represented the building's owner, O Street Partners.
Among the new additions to the building exterior will be plenty of neon, along with chrome and stainless steel accents.
"It's a match made in heaven," Turton said of putting the old-style diner in a 1960s building.
The broker's plans also include luring a bridal store to the building to complement Eita's cakes and make it a "one-stop shop" for wedding planners.
Thomas Roth, Eita's landlord at the original K Street site, said he's sorry to see Rick's depart but he's looking to find a similar business to take its place.
"I'm going to have a dessert place" there, he said. "I don't know who it will be, but that's my goal."
Few local businesses have been honored more than Rick's over the years, winning numerous "best of" awards in local contests.
Indeed, Eita said, he has a box full of awards that he hasn't displayed "because the walls are full" - with framed certificates as well as big paintings of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart.
Eita's success secret: Using only top-quality ingredients and making everything from scratch.
"Whatever you taste here you won't taste anywhere else," he said, "because it's all made by hand."
Eita followed a somewhat unconventional path to culinary success.
He wanted to become an artist but instead followed his parents' wishes to get an accounting degree in North Carolina before moving to Sacramento and taking the job at Rick's. In 1991, he spent $62,000 to buy the business from its founding partners, including Richard Larson, the original "Rick."
He quickly had to learn pastry cooking, keeping many of the recipes from the founders but adding his own creations, including six-layer Thiebaud cakes modeled after those portrayed famously in the paintings of noted Sacramento artist Wayne Thiebaud.
He's also proud of his tiramisu - which he proclaimed to be "the best in Sacramento if not Northern California" - and Neapolitans.
All are made with the goal of being "tasty but also beautiful," said Eita, who has come back to his original passion through an indirect route.
"Now," he said, "I'm finally doing my art."