By John Burton
RED BANK – In the “sweet spot” that has become the borough’s downtown business district there is a new addition.
This one, its owners maintain, has a difference.
“We have not only sweet, we have savory things here,” said Ayca User, co-owner and general manager of Antoinette Boulangerie French bakery, 32 Monmouth St., which opened on Jan. 3.
It offers “high-end fresh pastries and freshly baked breads,” all baked and created in the shop’s kitchen on-site, User noted.
While shoppers can purchase coffee and tea, it is the only bakery where bread can be purchased in Red Bank.
User and her co-owner/sister/executive chef Zeynep Ozdemir sought “the flavor and look of a European” spot with the brightly lit and marbled shop. The sisters, who are natives of Turkey, also “wanted to bring a little something upscale, like in New York City,” to the borough. Using “Antoinette” as the location’s name was intended to evoke European history, referencing Marie Antoinette of French Revolution and “Let them eat cake” fame, Ozdemir said.
Red Bank has seemed to develop a sweet tooth during the last few years with the arrival of a number of shops dedicated to the sweeter side of life. The borough is home to Sugarush, East Front Street; Magic Cupcake, Lil Cutie Pops and Whipped, all on Monmouth Street; Red Bank Chocolate Shoppe, long part of White Street; the Danish Café in the Galleria shopping complex on Bridge Avenue; and the recent opening of Carlo’s Bakery, made famous by TLC network’s “Cake Boss,” which arrived on Broad Street in November.
While the popularity of food shows may be a contributing factor in the rise in the number of these businesses, it may just be a case of imitation as the sincerest form of flattery, said James Scavone, executive director of Red Bank RiverCenter, the management and advocacy organization for the borough’s Special Improvement District. Scavone said that happened earlier in the downtown’s business district’s redevelopment with the proliferation of restaurants. “Red Bank became known as a dining destination and that kind of perpetuated more restaurants coming in,” he said.
“The market will decide when there is too many” of any one type of business in the area, he said.
The borough’s commercial areas are capable of supporting some of the niche markets that trend, Scavone said. “I think we’ve shown you can become a niche marketplace in different areas and you can do well.”
Mayor Pasquale Menna sees the arrival of a number of bakeries as a broadening of tastes with the treats. “I think what you’re seeing in terms of the Red Bank experience is the awakening of the lethargic palate,” Menna said. “And we’re becoming more eclectic in what we like.”
Along with the bakeries, the area has become home to businesses catering to such specialty items as wines, cheeses, teas and spices and one specializing in Spanish and Italian imported olive oils, all of which are doing well, the mayor said.
“Why get that bland stuff” that we’ve become used to that has been mass produced and mass marketed, Menna asked, “when you can get things that are much better tasting” and, oftentimes, not really that different in price?
Both Scavone and Menna noted Antoinette Boulangerie has carved out a distinct slice for itself by its breads and rolls, made on-site.
Antoinette Boulangerie’s gleaming glass cases are filled with delicately arranged sweets, such as Napoleons and éclairs, which also come in petite size; a variety of cakes, Danish and tarts; and an array of croissants, including chocolate and almond; and specialty items like the Peanut Butter Bombe and Rose Panna Cotta. Their aromatic artisan breads, French rolls and baguettes are stacked behind the counter, along with their plain, ham and cheese croissants and quiches.
The sisters were expected to start offering sandwiches this week.
User of Jersey City previously worked on Wall Street as a broker and project manager. Ozdemir, who lives in the Middletown’s Locust section, trained with chefs in Europe, worked for a French bakery in New York City, holds a graduate degree in marketing and another one from New York University in nutrition and has worked as a nutritionist.
“That’s why I’m in front of the business and my sister is responsible for the baking,” User explained.
Ozdemir works with chef Gina Roselle-Broschart of Red Bank. The two women oversee the daily baking of 40 items and believe they have something for everyone’s taste.
The shop has been open for just two weeks. “We’ve already developed loyal customers,” User said.
That would seem to include Menna.
“I have to tell you, the croissants are absolutely out of this world,” he said.
Along with expanding to include sandwiches, User and Ozdemir hope to have some tables available in the near future, allowing customers to eat in. That will require filing for additional borough approval, a move they will likely put off until the spring.