By John Burton
RED BANK – It’s a great time for Sugarush and its owners, Chris Paseka and Jesse Bello-Paseka, as they undertake an expansion of their cupcake and custom cake business.
“I can’t wait for the future with the growth happening here,” Paseka said this week.
“It is a happy business. We have customers who are happy to see us. We have people who want us and what we do to be part of their lives.”
Chris and his husband and business partner, Jesse, have taken over the space adjacent to their 37 E. Front St. location. It had been home to the Kathryn Barnett School of Dance for about 30 years. That business has since moved to Union Square on Route 35 in Middletown.
Sugarush’s existing space of about 850 square feet will increase to just under 2,000 square feet when the expansion is completed, Paseka said.
“Customers decided cupcakes,” he said, with the demand surprising the owners as Sugarush preceded the trend of cupcake shops that have been popping up in town and elsewhere.
Recently, Paseka and Bello-Paseka have seen similar businesses emerging on the local scene, including the Cake Boss of reality TV fame, which will open by the end of the year on Broad Street.
“I think in some ways it’ll be great for the town,” Paseka said.
But what, if anything, will it mean for Sugarush?
“I’m not worried about it,” he said. “It’s two different businesses. It’s two different animals…We do what we do and he does what he does. We wish him all of the best.
“We can’t compete for people’s taste buds. Either you like what we do or you don’t,” Paseka said.
“Their prices are very different than ours. Their process is very different than ours.”
Customers can design their own cupcakes at Sugarush’s cupcake bar by selecting fillings and toppings. The location gets a strong walk-in business from school kids and area workers, who stop in for a sweet treat, whether for a cupcake or from the candy selection.
A big part of the business is catering for which they make-to-order cakes or cupcakes, Paseka said.
The work on Sugarush’s expansion needs some finishing touches, the necessary borough approvals and, hopefully, will be completed by late October. That will allow Sugarush to use the space for what Paseka said would be “cupcake-themed parties” and more storage and office space.
While he sees the expansion as “a natural fit” for kids’ parties, he also envisions the space working well for engagements, showers and for the calls he’s been getting about champagne and cupcake parties. The space will accommodate about 44 patrons plus staff. They are lining up parties for the space, and have been getting about a half-dozen inquiries a day, Paseka said.
Business “has been wonderful” for the cupcakes and other items since they started almost three years ago in the small, cute shop, painted in pastel colors.
Paseka, who was working as an event planner and designer, and Bello-Paseka, who was a theatrical visual designer, had been making cakes as a sideline for friends and family for about five years prior to opening the shop.
Initially, Paseka didn’t think of baking as a career. “But,” he said, “if you asked my friends and family, they would tell you they saw it coming.”
They were living in North Bergen and were looking to relocate and start the business.
Paseka said they wanted “a small town, with a downtown and a walking town, something maybe a little funky, hipper.”
They thought Red Bank fit the bill. The two also moved here, taking up residence on Washington Street.
“We walked into this space and we just felt it,” he said of the shop. “We gave up our lives and started here.
“We didn’t really decide on cupcakes,” he said. They thought the business’ main focus would be custom cakes with cupcakes a sideline.
The draw of a cupcake?
“It just makes you feel good,” Paseka said. “It is familiar. It brings back memories of childhood … It’s comfortable.”
That nice, happy feeling is reflected in their customers. “We get to put smiles on people’s faces every day,” he said.