By Michele J. Kuhn
RED BANK – The borough is solidifying its position as a sweet place to be.
One of the latest offering in this “cool little town” is Whipped, A Café & Dessert Bar at 6 Monmouth St.
Owners Nick Napoletano and Erica Lieberman opened their pink, chocolate and white striped café on Sept. 11 and have been selling their sweet and savory crepes, hand-pressed coffee, European-style pastries, Italian gelato and petite “Whipped Bites” cupcakes to a growing number of customers under their elegant crystal chandeliers.
Lieberman and Napoletano, who are a couple, began their joint venture as a cupcake catering company for a variety of events, such as birthdays and christenings. They decided to enter the Red Bank sweets business after catering a party at a Broad Street store. While there, it was suggested that they pay a visit to the owner of La Patisweet. They brought him some cupcakes and for a short time, they sold the little cakes from his store. A short time later, the owner told them he was closing his crepe shop and they took over the space.
“Our decision to do this literally happened overnight,” Lieberman said. “I’ve wanted this my entire life.”
The roots of the business are found in Lieberman’s love of baking. She initially learned to bake as a child, working with her mother, but kept improvising and developing new treats and tastes – sometimes with the help of videos on YouTube. While working in finance in New York City, she baked first for fun and then as a side business which really got a boost a few years ago when she was able to cater a cupcake event at Macy’s in Herald Square during Black Friday.
The finance job was “torture,” she said. She thought that sentiment was tied to the long commute but found out otherwise when she moved to an office in Marlboro. She still found finance work torturous.
She met Napoletano two years later at the Marlboro office where she worked and he was the branch manager. He had been in marketing and graphic design prior to 9/11. When that business began to sour, financial jobs were picking up and he joined the mortgage firm. He had enjoyed design work and was tiring of the financial world when he and Lieberman decided to bring the cupcake business to the next level – particularly after Napoletano tasted a Lieberman-baked cupcake. A professed hater of red-velvet cake, he arrived to try one of Lieberman’s creations and found her in her kitchen with dozens of the deep-red variety. “I’m like, ‘oh boy, here we go,’” he said. “But, I tasted her cupcake and I was blown away … That’s when I knew we might have something.”
His opinion didn’t change when he tasted subsequent varieties of her cupcakes. “Everything she made I thought was delicious,” he said.
They started slowly with cupcake catering, selling though the Facebook page he designed and through email blasts to clients. Friends began boosting their products and so did Mike Sorrentino, The Situation of “Jersey Shore” fame, who is a neighbor of Lieberman’s. That marketing push led to the event on Broad Street and their eventual location on Monmouth Street.
Lieberman, a Rutgers graduate, and Napoletano, who went to the School of Visual Arts in New York City – the shop’s décor and graphics are Napoletano’s – are happy to be in Red Bank.
“I always thought it would be cool to have a dessert shop in Red Bank … It was always a fantasy of mine,” Lieberman said.
They first thought the dessert scene might be too crowded for them but then decided with their line of crepes, gelato, pastries and space with tables and chairs, it was unlike other businesses in town.
Locating in Red Bank “is the best thing that could ever happen,” Lieberman said.
They are confident they will continue to do well even though Carlo’s Bakery, aka The Cake Boss, is locating around the corner.
“We’re different,” Napoletano said. “We’re quaint. We’re small. We have the seating. I think people prefer the coziness that we bring. I think we fit the area better with our trendiness and the look of our place.”
The business also draws a “late-night crowd” who come in for coffee and dessert, he said. “We don’t do big wedding and birthday cakes.”
Whipped is open seven days a week: from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
The shop’s telephone number is 732-580-4596 and its website is located at www.whippedcafe.com.