CUPCAKE CRUSH IN RED BANK

mrMr. Cupcakes is one of two new cupcake purveyors in Red Bank, making three in total. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The batter’s going to start flying in Red Bank.

Just months after Chris Paseka and Jesse Bello-Paseka opened cupcake-centric Sugarush on Front Street, two new niche bakeries plan to open in town, waging, if nothing else, a serious cupcake competition in town.

Mr. Cupcakes, which already operates three cupcake-based bakeries in North Jersey, is taking up space in Ricky’s Candy, Cones and Chaos on Broad Street.

Another shop, the Cupcake Magician, is slated to move into 54 Monmouth Street, operated by the husband and wife duo of John and Roseann Nardini, of Middletown.

Operated by 26-year-old Johnny Manganiotis, Mr. Cupcakes won’t actually do any baking at Ricky’s, but rather use it as an outlet. Manganiotis is renting space at Ricky’s and will ship his baked goods to the shop from his Clifton location, he said.

He plans to open next week and went on a PR blitz Saturday, posting fliers on car windshields and walking around town with the Mr. Cupcakes mascot, a tuxedo-ed cupcake with a vanilla icing head and a bright red cherry on top.

With more than 40 flavors on the menu, Manganiotis boasted that Mr. Cupcakes won New Jersey Monthly magazine’s 2011 reader’s poll for best cupcakes.

The runner-up? Sugarush.

Paseka isn’t harboring any hard feelings, though, and refrained from backbiting on the two newcomers who may tap into his clientele base.

“Healthy competition is great,” said Paseka, who opened Sugarush with his partner, Bello-Paseka , in January. “I would’ve liked a few more months to get my feet wet, but free enterprise is free enterprise.”

Manganiotis, too, said he isn’t coming to Red Bank to steal away customers, but to spread his brand, which he started in 2007.

“Just walking around I thought this town was a good fit,” he said. “Competition, I think, it great. Red Bank’s a big town. There are enough cupcake places to go around.”

Are there? With three cupcake shops within blocks, Red Bank’s cupcake market will have gone from practically nothing to densely saturated. But that doesn’t mean these businesses can’t coexist. After all, you can’t go a block in town without the ability to grab a slice of pizza somewhere.

Roseann Nardini, who said she has 25 years of volunteering in the area, is far from ready to declare any cake wars. Actually, she heaped praise onto the guys at Sugarush.

“I think they’ll do well. I think I’ll do well and maybe Mr. Cupcakes will do well,” Nardini said. “I mean, how many restaurants are in town? It all depends on [customer] tastes.”

Nancy Adams, executive director of Red Bank’s downtown promoting agency RiverCenter, said time will tell who will survive the sudden influx of cupcakeries.

“It’s their market out there. We’ll see what happens, just like everything else,” she said. “Maybe they’ll all coexist. Maybe they’ll all find their own little markets. We’ll see how it all works out.”

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