LaRosa Pastry Shop in Shrewsbury has stuck with the recipes that have made it succeed
LaRosa brothers succeed by following what their father taught
Gretchen C. Van Benthuysen
SHREWSBURY The LaRosa brothers, who have owned and operated LaRosa’s Pastry Shop on Newman Springs Road for 25 years, aren’t the least bit worried about competitors, including Carlo’s Bake Shop in neighboring Red Bank, opened by TV’s The Cake Boss in November.
As fifth-generation bakers, Sal LaRosa Jr., 52, of Oceanport and Peter LaRosa, 50, of Middletown have no doubt they’ll be here for another quarter century. Their great grandfather, whose own father was a baker in the Sicilian town of Palermo, began selling cannoli in Manhattan in 1901.
For us, being in the shop is personal, said Sal LaRosa. We have an emotional attachment to the greater Red Bank area and want to keep the family tradition of a main street bakery alive.
They think of their customers as family & often being called cousin and take joy in updates from adults they served as children. To stay more in touch, they are relaunching an updated retail website later this month.
We want to go to our customer base directly, Sal LaRosa said. We can grow our sales by 20 percent by keeping our customers more informed. And with Facebook, I have a beautiful opportunity to talk to them at least once a week.
Catering to that loyal base is paramount.
We have a core of bakery items that have been loved by our customers for many years, Sal LaRosa explained. We have them when they walk in the door. They don’t like it when it’s not there.
St. Joseph’s Day treats
We keep the traditions, but we do the modern, said Peter LaRosa, noting the store offered custom fondant cakes 15 years ago and now sell King cakes for Mardi Gras. Old favorites for Easter include lamb and egg cakes and St. Joseph’s Day sfinge (deep fried dough filled with cannoli cream or egg custard) are available March 19.
We’ll sell 1,000 pastries that day, Sal LaRosa said.
What’s really taking off now is our new cannoli chips, Peter LaRosa said. We make party platters with the chips around the outside and the cannoli cream in the middle and they’re selling like crazy.
About 75 percent of their business is wholesale, with 16 kinds of cannoli a speciality, and is where the real money is made. The shop is the soul of their business, where the fun is made.
It makes it easier for a retail store to exist in this world with an established wholesale, Sal LaRosa said. A lot of great bakeries use our components, they just don’t disclose it.
Sal Jr. and Peter started learning their trade at the family’s Staten Island pastry shop. Later their father would move the shop to Middletown, though he closed it in 1978 when he retired. But by 1983, Sal Jr. restarted the bakery business, and by 1989, with his brother, they moved it to Shrewsbury.
The brothers insist everything is made from scratch and always freshly baked.
We don’t make 10,000 cream puffs, we make 6, 8, 12 at a time, he said. Customers like seeing fresh pastries and bread coming out of the back.
We sell every thing every day, he said. In today’s world you can’t open that door if you don’t sell all of this (he gestures around the store).
Their formula makes the shop, currently undergoing some updating, a destination for customers. Tables and chairs for lingering are popular.
All these years the product carried the family through. My dad said, €˜Don’t ever change what I’m teaching you!’ followed by some choice word, Sal LaRosa said. €˜If you have to make it more expensive, make it more expensive. Never cheat. You follow the recipe and it will bring you all the way through.’ And it has. We’ve never been hungry as a family.
Peter LaRosa gives PieHole a delicious history lesson on St. Joseph’s Day sfinges and zeppolis. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge) By JIM WILLIS Monday’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations may have been mostly about the beer and a bit about€¦