By Katie TerBeest — 

When Joan Ferris and Jay Sparks, partners and co-owners of the new restaurant Lovechild, envisioned their dream restaurant, their goal was to create an environment “where excellent work and fun can happen at the same time, and everyone enjoys coming into the space, including employees, vendors … and us too,” Ferris said. 

The duo, sharing decades of extensive experience in the food and service industries, were working together for a restaurant company in the Twin Cities for several years but felt it was time for a new adventure.

“We’ve always loved La Crosse,” Ferris remarked. “It’s my hometown, and Jay and I would drive down from the cities as our little getaway. We love the natural beauty of the bluffs and rivers, the excitement of downtown and Oktoberfest, and the proximity to local farms and producers.” But it was the space on the corner of Jay and 3rd streets that really made the decision easy for Ferris and Sparks. 

With its high ceilings, exposed brick walls, oversized windows, large kitchen and ideal location, Sparks and Ferris made the move to downtown La Crosse and began working on Lovechild. “We knew we wanted it to be everything we loved in food, music, design and service,” Ferris expressed. “Over the years I began collecting design ideas from all different sources: travel, design books, magazines, movies, etc.” These ideas include an antique gold Venetian chandelier, backlit mirrors that now hang behind the bar, gold foil, an oversized gilded mirror, works of art, red velvet curtains and blue velvet seating. 

Sparks and Ferris took their design ideas to Shea, Inc., “Minneapolis’ highest-regarded restaurant designers,” Ferris said. The architects were able to take Ferris and Sparks’ eclectic mix of design elements and bring them to fruition. Shea was also helpful in connecting Ferris and Sparks with Brickl Bros., contractors the co-owners chose because of Brickl’s willingness to take the time to guide the first-time business owners. “They were a perfect fit for our particular project. They were very patient and helpful throughout the entire process,” Ferris said. Sparks added, “They also were able to help with restaurant design, maintaining the open kitchen concept we had in mind. That kitchen really makes it feel like you’re in a home.” 

“We enjoy describing it as a visit to an eccentric aunt’s house,” Ferris clarified.

“You can wear whatever you want and feel warm and welcome every time you visit. It’s soft and beautiful; we wanted to make sure people didn’t feel like they had to dress up unless they wanted to.” Sparks and Ferris agree that the response thus far regarding the atmosphere is exactly what they had wished for. “We receive a lot of compliments on the acoustics and the fact that you can easily converse,” Ferris said. 

Unique to Lovechild, Ferris’ dream included a restaurant with all booth and corner tables. “Thank God Joan saw that booth idea in her vision of the space,” Sparks said. “There is not a bad seat in the house.” Ferris added, “In my experience, no one wants to sit in the middle of the room.” Near the bar, which seats 21 people, there are five loveseats where guests are able to sit side by side. “We have people returning for those spots because they’re so cozy and tucked away,” Ferris said. 

The velvet and gold space is intimate but inviting, and Sparks and Ferris are driven to not just meet expectations, but to exceed them on every level. “That takes years to achieve, but the love and passion for what we do keeps the mission fresh and exciting every day we walk over,” Ferris said. “I would describe this as an extension of our house,” Sparks added.  Future plans for Lovechild include adding a special lounge-style waiting room, which includes visions of blue velvet, candlelight and potentially a separate mini menu. 

“Like” Lovechild on Facebook for updates and menu information. 

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