RED BANK’S LATEST RUSH: CUPCAKES

sugarush guys 2011Jesse Bello-Paseka, left, and Chris Paseka opened the doors to Sugarush just after Christmas on East Front Street. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

rcsm2_010508For years, it was a joke among friends that Jesse Bello-Paseka and his partner, Chris Paseka, should take their hobby out of their Manhattan kitchen and to the public.

The couple, who, until recently did marketing and design work on Broadway, were known for their planning, decorating and baking prowess for private events and parties. But they grew tired of the daily grind in the city, and decided to make a change in lifestyle shortly after they were married this summer.

“A few years ago, we joked that we’d quit our lives, quit the rat race and go to a small town and live our lives kind of stress-free,” Paseka said. “After the wedding, we were like, why don’t we entertain it?”

It’s not quite the stress-free life they imagined — not yet, at least — but the pair is perfectly happy with their reincarnation as a baking and business duo and owners of Sugarush, a new specialty cupcake shop and bakery in Red Bank.

The Pasekas opened the doors at 37 East Front, in the space formerly occupied by Take A Bow, on December 28, and already they’re getting used to seeing the same faces across the counter.

“It’s been a wonderful response. We’ve had three repeat customers in two days,” Paseka said earlier this week. “I had one woman on New Year’s Eve, after we closed, banging on the window, going, ‘please, please let me buy something.”

The Pasekas consider themselves fortunate for the immediate enthusiastic response. For more than a year, another cupcake business, Cake Red Bank, was rumored to be opening up on West Front, but hasn’t. So the excitement has been a bit of a double-edged sword, Bello-Paseka said.

“People have waited so long for something to happen, to get on this cupcake train,” said Bello-Paseka, who grew up in Middletown. “And it’s like, man, we better do good.”

A lot of that depends on Bello-Paseka, who’s commanding the kitchen duties while his husband handles the front end of the shop. These guys have a tall order. In addition to offering candy buffets, catering services, customized t-shirts, plus all the fixings for a sure trip to the dentist — soda, candy, brownies, cake pops — there’s the main focus of the store: the cupcakes.

There’ll be six staples available each day, plus daily specials, along with a cupcake bar, where there may be anywhere from 20 to 30 different toppings, “because everybody’s sweet tooth is different,” Paseka said.

“And we want to be able to satisfy every sweet tooth,” he said.

The Pasekas are charitable, too. Each month they’re donating a portion of proceeds from sales of their signature Sugarush cupcake to select non-profits and good causes. This month it’s the Red Bank Fire Department.

“It was important to us to give back. We have a volunteer fire department, we have a soup kitchen, we have all these things in town,” Paseka said. “I want to be able to contribute because they’re helping us survive.”

It’s taken a bit of getting used to, being away from the big city and adjusting to life as small business owners, but Paseka said each day, with every new customer, he and his partner are slowly weaning themselves from the “office mentality” and saying, “New York what?”

“We get to do what we want to now. That’s the great thing about it, but also the scary thing about it, because we have to do everything,” Bello-Paseka said. “But isn’t life scary?”

The Pasekas are still figuring out Sugarush’s hours, but they’ve been open most of the day since opening the doors. The official grand opening is set for 4p on January 28.