The little shop on Jersey Avenue is not just about cakes, it’s about community. And that’s just what Celeste Governante had in mind when she opened Made with Love Artisan Bakery & Café in downtown Jersey City three years ago. Her creations are mouth-watering and, yes, the name is a mouthful, but to her downtown customers, her shop is just “Made with Love.”
Though she’s often felt like the little guy bucking a bad economy and labyrinthine licensing laws, she’s living her dream of “making people happy through the experience of eating.”
From haute couture to haute cuisine
A few years ago, Governante abandoned a lucrative career in the apparel industry and put her well-honed design sense to work at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, where she learned artisan bread making – “capturing the wild yeast from the environment,” she said, only half jokingly.
Artisan, she explained, is “making most things by hand. We have very little electric equipment and no commercial mixes.”
“I want to make people happy through the experience of eating” – Celeste Governante
She looks skeptically at “specialty stores that bake cupcakes on the premises by opening a cake box and adding water and saying they’re fresh baked.”
Governante is so passionate about her art that she took an “inspirational trip to Paris for four days” to learn about French pastry. Now, she said, she’s no longer “afraid of French pastry,” though it’s “very labor intensive and you have to constantly practice your technique.”
She makes her croissants “by hand, folding and turning in a very traditional French way.”
Location, location, location
Governante had been selling her goods at farmers’ markets all around the county before she opened the shop at 530 Jersey Ave. The farmers’ market in nearby Van Vorst Park was one of her favorites, which is how she found her current location, just a few blocks away.
The shop is the throbbing heart of her community enterprise. A combination of Governante’s innate PR skills and simple word of mouth has made Made with Love a downtown fixture.
She’s branched out from baking to preparing complete meals with savory soups and salads. Her monthly communal dinners at only $35 a pop are usually sold out with a capacity crowd of about 25 well-satisfied diners.
She offers cooking classes for all ages, as well as classes for seniors at Grace Church. She also works through a moms’ meetup group to teach kids, from toddlers to age 6. She contributes desserts to Art House Productions’ popular Snow Ball and showcases the works of local artists.
Like a lot of little storefront operations, she also offers entertainment – or used to. But last fall she apparently ran afoul of the city’s arcane entertainment licensing laws (see sidebar) and was forced to suspend her jazz nights and open mic nights, which featured spoken word artists, singers, and poets.
Losing the jazz night was especially disheartening since she created it in order to honor her late husband, who was a jazz musician.
For the time being, she’s moved her entertainment programs to other venues such as the Port-O Lounge and Grace Church.
The beat goes on
Governante remains steadfast, despite the entertainment setback. She did a brisk Valentine’s Day business this year despite a cruel economy that has done in some of the other businesses on the block, including a hardware store, fish market, and Polish deli. Uta Brauser, the fringe artist and community activist, closed her gallery, Fish with Braids, which was right across the street from Made with Love.
A love of cooking is in Governante’s genes. “I grew up in an Italian American family on Long Island,” she said. “My father was a butcher, and I would make sausages with my dad when I was a little girl. My mother was a wonderful homemaker who always had something fresh baked for me.”
Governante is one of the few business people around who can put love into the promo and into the product and really mean it.
With just one baker and some “counter help,” Governante continues “trying to build a brand image of simple wholesome organic food – made with love.”
Kate Rounds can be reached at email@example.com..
Ticket to ride
So what exactly do you need in order to host open mic and jazz nights in your establishment? Maryanne Kelleher, the director of the Jersey City Division of Cultural Affairs, weighed in.
“It’s the problem establishments that make it bad for everyone else,” she said. “You have to strike a careful balance between business owners and the arts community looking to create and entertain, and residents who live right next to a place with entertainment.”
She referenced outdoor cafes. “Everybody loves them,” she said, “unless you live next door to one.”
Instead of writing legislation to control the problem establishments and applying it citywide, she suggests “dealing singularly” with each business and each incident.
One solution is mind-numbingly practical: decibel meters.
“Businesses have asked for them; artists have asked for them,” she said. “When a resident calls with a complaint, the response will be appropriate.”
For those who love cities, there’s a tradeoff – high-octane arts options coupled with an unending hum – and sometimes a din – of ambient noise. Kelleher said the city may seek to establish acceptable noise levels that add entertainment sound to the city’s ambient buzz. Hudson County, she said, already has established decibel levels that the city might be able to use as a guide.
“There are degrees of bad,” she said, noting that “someone playing spoons in the corner” is a lot different than “amplified” noise, such as that produced by a rock band.
The entertainment licensing issue is still in the discussion stage with what Kelleher describes as a “huge group” of relevant city departments and the mayor’s office. The goal is to avoid heavy-handed legislation and bewildering bureaucracy.
“My concern and the mayor’s,” she said, “is sensitive enforcement.” – KR