A sweet cream-puff dream

Cream puffs in six flavors: (from left) cookies and cream, peanut butter, pistachio, banana wafer, strawberry, and vanilla bean, from the Dream Puffz shop in Haddonfield.
Cream puffs in six flavors: (from left) cookies and cream, peanut butter, pistachio, banana wafer, strawberry, and vanilla bean, from the Dream Puffz shop in Haddonfield. (ELISE WRABETZ / Staff Photographer)

Ex-hoops star shoots, hopes to score in a Haddonfield store.

Posted: August 03, 2012

What is the most unlikely career choice of a onetime high school and college basketball star whose NBA career was dashed by back injuries?

How about cream-puff salesman?

And not the used-car kind of cream puff - which might make sense - but the cream-filled pastry ball.

Which is the new vocation of Brian Zoubek, the 7-foot-1 center for Haddonfield Memorial High and the 2010 national championship Duke Blue Devils.

He's seeking profit in profiteroles.

This week in his hometown, Zoubek, 24, opened Dream Puffz - "the Z is for me" - a spare, modern corner storefront next to Bread Board Plus. The menu is simple: plain and chocolate-covered puffs in six filled-to-order flavors, plus a whipped cream-and-chocolate wafer dessert.

"I've always loved sweets," he said. After he left a tech business in New York, equipped with savings and a line of credit, he sought to scratch the entrepreneurial itch.

Impressed by niche food businesses such as cupcakes and muffins, he said, "I thought I'd do my own business with my favorite dessert. I didn't want to develop something just to wait for it to be bought out some day. I want to make money from the first day."

(Not that there isn't competition in even the South Jersey cream-puff business; Napoleon's Cremepuffery in Lindenwold has been selling the pastries since 1985.)

Zoubek said he wanted to get Dream Puffz up and running in his hometown and then syndicate it to New York.

It took him a brisk four months to hatch a business plan, secure a rental property, go before town officials, hire a baker, and open. He said he had plenty of mentors, including his father, Paul, a lawyer, and his mother, Liza, a former executive with Aramark.

Zoubek, who concedes that his kitchen skill is limited to boiling water for pasta, went on Craigslist several months ago, where he found Joseph Vella, 21, a fresh-baked graduate of the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College. Vella makes the pudding-based fillings and shells and the chocolate dessert daily. The puffs sell for $1.50 each ($15 a dozen) for the original. He also offers bags of cream and plain puffs so customers can fill their own.

Zoubek seemed optimistic about his chances for success, given his hometown fame and support. Sounding like a top rebounder, he added: "As long as I have the follow-up, I'll be fine."


Contact Michael Klein at mklein@philly.com.

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