When Brian Zoubek came to coach at Duke’s fantasy basketball camp last May, he had news: He was opening a cream puff shop.
Dream Puffz, to be exact.
“If there’s one thing I know, it’s desserts,” the former Duke center said. “You’ve seen the cupcake niche and the macaroon shops in areas like New York, but no one was doing cream puffs well.”
Zoubek and Dream Puffz filled the void.
Since opening in his hometown of Haddonfield, N.J., on July 30, the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. Dream Puffz sold all 1,200 puffs it made for the store’s debut, and the sellouts continued throughout the first week. Former teammate Jon Scheyer stopped by the store, and last week, it was named a hot new business on Yelp, the popular user review site for restaurants.
“It really is a quality product,” said Karen Andres, one of the reviewers. “They were wonderful, the outside was a perfect consistency, and the banana-flavored cream I had tasted like a real banana.”
Growing up, Zoubek gravitated toward cream-filled desserts, including éclairs, Boston cream donuts, and yes, cream puffs, his personal favorite. And while the 7-foot-1 center had to lay off the sweet stuff while he played at Duke from 2006-2010, he turned his attention back to pastries this summer.
Back injuries had derailed any hopes of a professional basketball career, and he was finished working at a mobile start-up run by friends from Duke. His entrepreneurial eye saw cream puffs as an undeveloped niche in the U.S. (“they’re big in Asia,” he said), and, thanks to an investment from his parents, he was almost ready to go.
Zoubek just needed one more ingredient: a pastry chef. So, he turned to Craigslist.
Joseph Villa, a recent graduate of Philadelphia’s Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, answered his ad, and the two spent the summer coming up with recipes for the light, fluffy shells and a variety of cream-fillings.
Currently, Dream Puffz, a sleek shop with white counters, dark wood floors and a green accent wall situated on a tree-lined street, offers six filling flavors: vanilla bean, strawberry, cookies and cream, pistachio, banana wafer and peanut butter. The shells, fluffy dough balls filled in front of customers, come with or without a chocolate top and powdered sugar.
“I’m working at the shop right now, learning every single day,” Zoubek said. “Working the cash register, the front with customers, I want to have the process down myself before I automate it with a manager and focus on my real interest, marketing and growing the company.”
They don’t currently ship the treats yet, but they are working on it. As for expansion plans, Zoubek would like to take his idea to New York City. In the meantime, though, Zoubek has the Haddonfield market covered.
"It’s been pretty crowded, and it’s a good business," Andres said. "I’m sure it will really take off during the holidays."