Running for Mayor (Not Really): Behind the Best Bakery in Scotch Plains You’ve Never Heard Of

Caitlin Maughan, Opinion Editor

When I walked into the bakery, my jaw dropped at the sight of delicious glazed desserts and sugar-coated cookies. On one end of the display case were cakes blanketed in buttery icing and chocolate petals; on the other end were crisp donuts and flakey croissants. How have I never heard of this place before? I wondered to myself.

 

In the corner, I noticed a man perched behind the counter with his nose buried in a book, a biography about Ronald Reagan. I later learned that this man is John Cioffi, the owner of the Swiss Pastry Shoppe on East Second Street. Cioffi loves to read non-fiction books and educate himself; he says that in another life he would have been a doctor, just like his brothers back in Italy. 

 

In this life, Cioffi owns a pastry shop in Scotch Plains. Though it was not his dream job, Cioffi enjoys meeting people from all over town. Likewise, Cioffi and his baked goods are beloved by many. Though the business owner and chef is extremely humble, he is a man of many talents. For instance, Cioffi speaks five languages. 

 

“[When I saw my brother], I thought I saw God,” Cioffi said. “I was so impressed. I wish I could have done that; I like to help people. In small ways I do. I donate all of our leftovers to Food Pantries.”   

 

The Swiss Pastry Shoppe, formerly a candy store, was opened in 1984. It is a staple in Scotch Plains and I can see why. I have sampled the tiramisu, jam sandwich cookies and divine Rugelach. I can say with certainty that I won’t be buying my baked goods from Dunkin’ Donuts any longer. Not to mention, all of the food is reasonably priced. But what truly makes this bakery outstanding is the customer service.   

People come in in their pajamas in the morning. They say, ‘Please don’t leave.’ Someday, I’m going to have to leave. There used to be four bakeries in town. They are all gone, and they all came with the idea that they were going to put me out of business. But I’m still here.”

— John Cioffi

“They want me to run for mayor,” Cioffi said. “I said that I’m not a politician, for one, and I don’t even live in this town.” 

 

Unfortunately, the Swiss Pastry Shoppe is struggling; the pandemic hit the small business hard. Fewer people left the safety of their homes to grab one of Cioffi’s danishes for breakfast and fewer people threw parties or held large-scale weddings with catering from the bakery. Moreover, people seeking a job have been far and few and the pastry shop has been impacted by shortages of basic ingredients such as flour or chocolate.

 

“People come in in their pajamas in the morning,” Cioffi said. “They say, ‘Please don’t leave.’ Someday, I’m going to have to leave. There used to be four bakeries in town. They are all gone, and they all came with the idea that they were going to put me out of business. But I’m still here.”  

 

The Swiss Pastry Shoppe is notably community-oriented. Many of the employees are high school students or scholars in culinary institutes seeking a six-month apprenticeship. Additionally, Cioffi frequently teaches girl scouts how to make cupcakes. 

 

All in all, The Swiss Pastry Shoppe is worth a visit. You will no doubt be greeted by the sweet smell of freshly baked bread and the smiling face of John Cioffi.