The Cigar Boxx property at 23-25 College St. in downtown Greenville has changed hands and businesses as of early February, and the new tenant plans to open a Better Than Sex: A Dessert Bar franchise later this spring.
Partners Shindana Hunter-Noel and Susan Noel signed a 10-year lease at the property formerly owned by Paolo Varvaro, who operated The Cigar Boxx until mid-2020. The 3,450-square-foot property on the corner across from the Cafe and Then Some dinner theater was sold to an undisclosed buyer as part of a deal orchestrated by Ryan Robertson and Cheyenne Miranda of Aline Capital that included the long-term lease.
“This is gonna be the date-night corner,” says Hunter-Noel. “That was one reason why we really liked this location. Cafe and Then Some has been here for years. This would be a perfect addition.”
The dessert restaurant offers a full bar with signature beverages and desserts with deliberately provocative names, like the Morning After, a Belgian chocolate and brie grilled cheese sandwich on cinnamon sugar bread with a side of strawberry champagne soup; and the Tongue Bath Truffle, a Belgian chocolate truffle with raspberry sorbet. The speakeasy-like atmosphere includes privacy curtains around candlelit tables.
Better than Sex has locations in Plano, Texas; Orlando, Florida; Key West, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; and Nashville, Tennessee. A location will open soon in Los Angeles.
Hunter-Noel says bringing the Better Than Sex dessert restaurant to Greenville began with a trip to the Florida Keys in 2014 when she and her partner dined at the original location.
“Immediately, it was a wow experience,” Hunter-Noel says. “When you talk about hitting all five senses, it hits every single one of them. The desserts were amazing. And just the way they treated you. They were on point when it came to making sure it was an awesome experience.”
After that, it was years of research, thinking they may try to open a similar business on their own, while also lobbying for the owners to start a franchise program. Their persistence paid off.
In 2018, franchising became available, and Hunter-Noel, with 20 years of customer service experience, and Noel, who has worked in food service for almost 18 years, knew this was what they wanted to do.
Their residential real estate agent, Veronica Posey, connected them with Robertson to start the location hunt. In January 2020, they were ready to start announcing their plans, and then COVID-19 hit. Progress was slow on finding the right location, but they continued to work with architect Shea O’Brien with Narramore Architects to make sure the property would fit the franchise needs.
Currently, the franchisees plan to keep the two-room structure of the property, which is in keeping with the intimate style of the restaurant that limits table sizes at two or four guests.
“This is a date-night style of restaurant,” Hunter-Noel says. “There will be no large table setting.”
Once they have more of the plans drawn up, they’ll be able to determine capacity and staffing needs in accordance with the franchise specifications.
“Greenville is a perfect location,” Hunter-Noel says. “There’s nothing like it in Greenville. We just wanted to share the same amazing experience we had with our friends and family.”