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Harlem cupcake baker has a taste for his hometown of Newark

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    Tonnie Rozier with some of his cupcakes at the Teachers Village site. ‘I kind of missed the boat on Jersey City,’ he says, ‘but I’m not going to miss Newark.’
    Tonnie Rozier with some of his cupcakes at the Teachers Village site. ‘I kind of missed the boat on Jersey City,’ he says, ‘but I’m not going to miss Newark.’ - (AARON HOUSTON)

    There was a time when you could find Tonnie Rozier toiling away in “a cupcake place that sells cheesesteaks.”

    At least, that's what some customers thought when things got busy at the Greenwich Village location.

    That was the site of Rozier's first cupcake shop — a 400-square-foot space he shared with a sandwich bar — that he opened in 2004 after changing careers. Admittedly, he “didn't have a clue” when he was offered the space.

    “If I knew what I know now, I wouldn't have done it,” said Rozier, 44. “But nonetheless, that was the beginning of me.”

    The founder and CEO of Tonnie's Minis has since figured out the real estate equation, and he's now eyeing his hometown of Newark to open his fourth location. A shop in the new Teachers Village development would be his first site outside New York, and he hopes to open the roughly 1,000-square-foot store about a year from now.

    “I actually visit the location at least once a week just to keep myself going, as a reminder of why I'm so tired and why I can't afford to rest now,” he said.

    Rozier had baked part-time until 2004, selling to friends and working at night to fulfill wholesale orders for clients such as Barnes & Noble, he said. But he “took the leap” and left a career in human services that year, when he needed to fulfill his largest holiday order to that point.

    Several storefronts later, Rozier now runs a quickly growing New York City bakery chain, with locations in Harlem and the Bronx; he's preparing to open another site in Manhattan. As for the Garden State, he has considered Jersey City, but an earlier look at Newark convinced him it was “not really ready just yet.”

    But then a friend introduced him to the Teachers Village project, and he found “this is a lot bigger than anyone can imagine,” he said.

    “It was just one of those things where I was kind on the fence about it,” Rozier said. “But seeing the Prudential Center, the Prudential building, the hotels going up, and the change that's taking place, I realized, 'I kind of missed the boat on Jersey City, but I'm not going to miss Newark.'”

    E-mail to: joshb@njbiz.com
    On Twitter: @joshburdnj

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    Joshua Burd

    Joshua Burd

    Josh Burd covers real estate, economic development and sports and entertainment. Before joining NJBIZ in 2011, he spent four years as a metro reporter in Central Jersey. His email is joshb@njbiz.com and he is @JoshBurdNJ on Twitter.

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