A CASTLETON CORNERS BAKERY AND ANTIQUE SHOP IS THE LATEST CREATIVE CULINARY CONCEPT FROM THE TEAM BEHIND CAKE CHEF
BY ERIK SCHONING, PHOTOS BY ALEX BARRETO
The many confectionery businesses of James and Maria Carrozza need no introduction: the couple has been running bakeries on Staten Island since 1988, including their breakout Cake Chef, the cult favorite Cookie Jar, and the cozy Piece A Cake. With each venture, the duo has tried to do something different, and their latest, Coffee & Collectibles, may take the cake as the most unique of them all: a hybrid bakery and antique shop set right off buzzing Victory Boulevard.
In 2019, the Carrozzas opened Objects of Interest, an antique store originally conceived as an opportunity for James Carrozza to clear out some of the impressive antiques he’d collected over the years.
“My husband is an old soul,” Maria Carrozza said. “He gravitates to things that have a history. Years ago when he acquired a lot of stuff, I said to him, ‘James, what the heck are you doing with all this stuff? We don’t have a house big enough for all the things you love!’ So he started selling them. That’s the way the antique store grew.”
While the antique store was a passion project, the bakery business was the Carrozza’s lifeblood, and after Objects of Interest first debuted in 2019, they realized they had an opportunity to make both businesses work together. After setbacks due to COVID, Coffee & Collectibles finally launched in April of this year. It proved to be an auspicious decision, allowing the Carrozzas to launch another bakery while garnering attention for their antique business.
“A bakery is something that really brings in a lot of people, because people have to eat,” Carrozza said. “They don’t necessarily have to buy a reproduction or a vintage item. So it was easy for us to try and grow the antique business by incorporating what we know, which is food. So now you have a 5,000 square foot, multi-level antique store that is drawing in a lot more people than it did in the five years we were next door.”
On the bakery side, Coffee & Collectibles is a classic Carrozza operation: there are tarts, cookies, and cakes. There are the fan favorite Danishes that the couple sells at Piece A Cake and Cake Chef. But the Carrozzas want to offer something new with each store, and so Coffee & Collectibles features specials that are only available on site. Filling out the bakery menu is a robust lineup of savory breakfast and lunch options, juices, soups, and salads, helping the space walk the line between bakery and deli. It’s very much intentional: Maria Carrozza sees the business as an everyday destination for any type of need, not just a destination for special occasions.
So far, the community response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We’re getting so much positive feedback,” Carrozza said. “We’re hearing so many customers saying, ‘Oh my goodness, you hit it out of the ballpark once again.’ It’s something that also starts a conversation with our customers. If they’re meeting somebody to catch up, they go through the vintage store and they’re talking about their childhood: ‘Remember mom had this or grandma had that?’ It’s just a fun place to be.”
Nostalgia is a substantial portion of the antique recipe, and the Carrozzas have embraced the feeling in designing the space: a display of vintage rolling pins on the wall separates the bakery space from the proper antique store; trinkets abound, and there’s even a road sign for Jewett Avenue, which is where the Carrozza’s first venture, Cake Chef, took off years ago. But it’s not all about yesteryear: in a contemporary nod, the bakery features a giant “Brooklyn” neon sign from the set of Jimmy Kimmel Live! Just as Coffee & Collectibles pairs two of the Carrozzas’ interests, baking and antiquing, the space walks the line between classic and contemporary.
“My husband and I have been building over the last 30 years what we call unique concepts,” Carrozza said. “We didn’t just do Cake Chef and duplicate our original store in five or six different locations throughout Staten Island. We want to be inspired, and we also want to feel like each place is unique, giving people a different reason to visit each one.”
The Carrozzas certainly have their hands full these days, operating five bakeries across Staten Island. They are looking to expand Cookie Jar into a franchise in an effort to bring their wildly popular cookies to a wider audience than ever before. To help with it all, they’ve brought in their son, Salvatore Carrozza, to run Coffee & Collectibles.
“We were able to expand because Salvatore is dedicated to carrying on our traditions,” Carrozza said. “He is the second generation who will maintain, build, and grow our family enterprise.”
And that, after all, is the main crux of antiquing: preserving and honoring the past. Throw in a Danish or a cookie, and it’s hard to think of a better way to spend an afternoon.
Cake Chef’s Coffee & Collectibles
561 Manor Road
718.360.5090 / coffeeandcollectiblesnyc.com