A post on Instagram highlights the delicious items available at Despina Kontomanolis’ Cream Bakery. (Photo: Instagram)
NEW JERSEY – Greek-American Despina Kontomanolis left her corporate job to open Cream Bakery in northern New Jersey, according to a February 14 article in the Daily Voice Northern Highlands (DVNH).
Kontomanolis always loved baking, “it’s methodical, scientific, and she knew if she followed the steps meticulously, she’d get exactly the product she wanted,” DVNH reported, adding that “baking proved to be imperative to the 36-year-old… after she graduated from Fordham Business School, and began working in the corporate world in 2009.”
“I felt like my soul was dying,” Kontomanolis told DVNH. “I was feeling like I wasn’t living up to my full potential because I wasn’t getting pleasure out of selling insurance or writing up leases.”
“In 2015, she quit her corporate gig at the urging of friends and family to do what she loves: Bake,” DVNH reported, noting that was when Kontomanolis opened Cream Bakery.
“And while Kontomanolis has only ever offered online orders and made wholesale products, she’ll be opening her first-ever brick and mortar store in River Vale, with help from the same friends and family members, later this month [February],” DVNH reported.
As with so many Greek-American families, “a good education was always important to Kontomanolis’ parents,” DVNH reported, noting that “her grandparents immigrated to Queens, NY from Greece and worked dishwashing jobs, and so, they pushed her parents to do more with their lives, and likewise for Kontomanolis and her brother, Michael.”
“School came easily to Kontomanolis, who has fond memories of her time at New Milford High School (Class of 2005),” DVNH reported, adding that “she cruised through business classes at Fordham, and felt school was actually her strong suit, but the passion Kontomanolis had for school wasn’t translating to the corporate world.”
“There was nothing bad about the job,” she told DVNH. “The people were great but I felt like I was losing myself and my personality completely.”
“She’d spend hours at the office doing the same things every day, exhausted by the time she got home with only a couple of hours to ‘be Despina,’” DVNH reported, noting that “to counter that, she baked.”
“Not only did she love doing it, but her friends and family loved what she made,” DVNH reported, adding that “it became a side gig” and “in 2014, Kontomanolis made a cake for her best friend’s 150-person wedding.”
“I remember standing at the wedding and everyone had a slice of cake,” she told DVNH. “Usually people just move the cake around on their plate, but mine was actually being eaten. I felt like a pro.”
The cake was “made with all-real ingredients — like true vanilla, not extract — and according to Kontomanolis, that makes the difference for all of her goods,” DVNH reported, noting that Kontomanolis’ brother then “suggested doing something with her side gig- he would handle the website and everything required on the back-end of business, and all she had to do was bake.”
“The move meant quitting her job, but to Kontomanolis, it was worth it,” DVNH reported.
“I found baking to be something I really enjoyed,” she told DVNH. “I made a choice to take a risk, a huge pay cut, and to focus on my happiness rather than security.”
Cream Bakery began as a wholesale business with Kontomanolis creating “small treats that were sold at Roast’d Coffee — formerly the Koffee Wagon — in Hasbrouck Heights, and their other cafes,” DVNH reported, adding that her husband Alex Perez also “joined the team, and soon, she began selling her products online for shipment.”
The business continued growing but took a brief pause due to the pandemic in March 2020, DVNH reported, noting that by May of that year, “Kontomanolis was back in a commercial kitchen, and that’s when things really picked up.”
“Taking the jump to purchase retail space in Bergen County was always daunting,” Perez told DVNH. “It’s expensive, but became more realistic after COVID.”
“They kept their eyes out for a space that would work, and eventually found one in River Vale,” DVNH reported, noting that “they signed the lease in May 2022.”
Cream Bakery opens at 669-G Westwood Avenue in River Vale, NJ, later in February. Moe information is available online: https://www.creambakery.com.
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