Monday, December 10, 2012

Bling is in! Interview with Lisa Mansour of NY Cake and Baking

 Interview with Lisa Mansour
Co-Owner NY Cake & Baking

Interview by Kathryn Gordon and Jessie Riley

Kathryn:  Hi Lisa!  We’ve spoken before about your grandmother who was a chocolatier in Salt Lake City, and your mother who was a pioneer in NYC cake decorating.  Your parents use to run the business.   Now it’s more being run by you and your siblings, right?  How did that all evolve?

Lisa:  I grew up learning about cake from my mother.  In fact, I started this location (on West 22nd Street, NYC) with my mother in 1989.  At that point there was no store of its kind at all and most people didn’t know what “cake decorating” was at that point.  In fact, originally we were further down the street and the landlord said:  "You won’t even last a year!"  We have the same landlord in this larger location almost 25 years later and now he understands more about cake! 

Kathryn:  So do people watching TV!  I imagine the cake craze has helped your business boom?

Lisa: I came back to work in the business full time in the past 3-4 years.  Before then it was run mostly by my mom, dad and brother. Fundamentally, this is a cookie cutter and sprinkle business.  And it’s very seasonal.

Now my sister and her husband also work in the business.  My sister Jenny primarily works up in our warehouse in Westchester and is responsible for the website and all internet orders.  I am now in charge of the NYC store from A-Z.  My mom is in charge of the books.  My dad, well, he bosses everyone around! 

Kathryn:  Things have “shifted” here since I first visited you 2 years ago.  And I don’t just mean where items are located in the store…

Lisa:  Our emphasis is on introducing new cake ideas to refresh the company and to provide better customer service.  You can say that the “girls in the family” definitely have personality!  I’m really excited to get in there as an adviser to people, to help them make whatever cake they want to make. 

Jessie:  You’re launching a new line of tools this month under your own line?

Lisa:  Yes!  I decided to design tools to make it easier for people to make the cake they want to make.  These days, everyone is short on time and they have to juggle so many things in their lives.  Whether they make a cake for their family, or to sell – tools help them execute it the most efficiently.  We had the resources to help pull together a line of tools.  

My brother-in-law is responsible for manufacturing most of our tools. Because of this, I am able to introduce a line of “Couture Molds” in silicon that will work with a variety of cake decorating materials:  modeling chocolate, gum paste, fondant, pulled sugar and tempered chocolate.Basically, whatever the cake decorator wants to do!

                                                       Jessie:  What else is in the works for your line, Lisa?

Lisa:  In January, I expect to introduce a gluten-free cake mix with natural flavorings. There is such demand now for great tasting, gluten free products. I hear it all day in the store as customers come in looking for product.  I am right in the middle of the store so I get to hear all day what my customers want.

I would also like to have a school.  I love teaching now through our NY Cake Academy and I have lots of ideas.  I am teaching a class at ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) in 2 weeks, and next year will teach a class at ICE in 2013 under the CAPS program.

Kathryn:  Can you run a school here, in the store?  I remember taking my first Wilton cake decorating piping series with your mother years ago, in a location down the street.

Lisa:  Rents in Manhattan are so high but we’re looking into our options.  We will be starting to do free in-store cake demonstrations after the holidays.  I want to bring in guest chefs, and foster a sense of community in the store like we used to have when the cake business was in its infancy. 

Kathryn:  What’s the best thing about the NY store?

Lisa:  Employee loyalty.  We all work 6 days a week, including me.  I’m lucky that most of our employees have been with us a long time.

Jessie:  What’s the most current cake trend you’re seeing now?

Lisa:  The demand is still for bling!  More and more bling, in fact. 

Jessie:  What doesn’t “move anymore” in the world of cakes?

Lisa:  Cake separators and columns. Right now you can’t give them away.

Jessie:  Before we finish up, what drives you, Lisa?

Lisa:  I want to be a trend setter, and never a “copier”.  I don’t even look at what other people are doing with their cakes or cake classes.  I focus on myself, not other decorators.   Some people consider me a threat – which I think is sad.  I need to do my own thing, and I have my hands full with my own projects.

Jessie: Thanks Lisa!

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