Rockaway Entrepreneurs: Pastazerts

 Rockaway Entrepreneurs: Pastazerts

By Dan Guarino

For nearly two decades Rockaway has proved, mostly, fertile ground for traditional new businesses. But it has also been raising a growing crop of scores of peninsula-based entrepreneurs, each finding their own niche, facing their own challenges, and carving their own paths to success.

“Rockaway is the best place to be an entrepreneur,” says Shane Kulman, third-generation entrepreneur, business/personal coach, founder/owner of Celebrate Your Life and co-founder of Rockaway Creates, dedicated to helping peninsula businesses and creatives flourish. “There is so much support here to get things done, to brainstorm ideas, and, well, it’s the most picturesque for social media content.”

Rockaway Beach’s Stephanie Berwick and husband Joel Rumpf of Pastazerts agree. Noting a tight-knit sense of community, Berwick says she feels “personally supported here and that’s translated so well into launching the business here as well. It’s a highly supportive business environment dedicated to helping new businesses thrive. There’s also a clear, growing food scene here in Rockaway. I aspire to position Pastazerts at the forefront of Rockaway’s vibrant and expanding culinary landscape.”

Pastazerts serves up a unique twist to a familiar favorite, creating a chocolate dessert ravioli “with sweet filling variations like you’ve never experienced,” Berwick and Rumpf note. Those variations include peppermint, pina colada, fresh fig, strawberry cheesecake and peanut butter and jelly filled ravioli, plus chocolate fettucine and fresh-made fruit sauces.

Berwick explains, “it all started with competitive cooking over 10 years ago at the World Food Championships in Las Vegas. We had a theme of pasta and had to prepare multiple dishes. I wanted at least one of those dishes to be highly innovative to stand out for the judges. After several rounds of ideation amongst friends and family, my take on the chocolate ravioli was born.”

Since then, they have worked to expand the reach of their business and product. “Fast forward many years and I started to believe friends and family that this unique and innovative recipe should be shared with the world and started forming a business plan for Pastazerts’s launch.”

Rumpf has been chef for over 30 years. Berwick, with a degree in Finance, and an MBA, took a corporate route, starting as a financial analyst, then moving to a medium-sized software company. During her decade there, she “wore many hats such as client implementations/delivery, business development, customer success, marketing, and alliances/partnerships.” Later she worked for a quickly growing global tech startup, ending her corporate career as a tech consulting firm VP/Chief of Staff. “I think all that experience positioned me well for entrepreneurship. And here I am giving it a shot!”

Pastazerts made its first appearances at local Rockaway makers’ markets. At their first outing, Berwick and Rumpf met one of the owners of Breezy Point’s “Deirdre Maeve’s Supermarket and he quickly brought our chocolate ravioli line into his store. Our first indie grocer account!”

Besides focusing on direct-to-consumer sales through their website, they also began to connect with retailors, “generally small independent boutique/gourmet stores and restaurants nationwide,” receiving wholesale orders through the online marketplace Faire. They have continued to gain new wholesale customer orders and reorders from several restaurants across the U.S., met with Butterfield Markets head buyer re: featuring their products, launched in Brothers Italian World Food store in Howard Beach, Garden of Eden in Morningside Heights, Greenpoint’s Jubilee Market, Valentino Food Market in Ridgewood and more.

Berwick notes Pastazert’s four store Stew Leonard’s debut before Mother’s Day generated their largest single order to date at “100 cases =14,400 chocolate ravioli!” Whole Foods Market’s buyer has been impressed with their desserts, DeCicco & Sons’ 10 stores now carry them, they’ve met with giant restaurant wholesaler Sysco and several Chicago restaurant chains and demo’d their goods for Resorts World Casino execs. Meanwhile the online marketplace Grommet has been generating a multitude of direct-to-consumer website sales.

But as Berwick freely admits, “There’s many challenges to starting a business, especially a frozen dessert ‘consumer packaged goods’ business. And the challenges evolve and become more complex as the business grows for sure.”

“When we started out last year, many of those challenges were around product development – ensuring we’re tracking customer feedback through the local Rockaway markets, friends/family, and occasionally altering the chocolate ravioli recipe based on that feedback.”

Especially over the holidays with customers ordering direct, they had to figure how to ship their refrigerated products all across the country safe, sound and looking and tasting their best. “This was solved through sourcing insulated shipping cases and cold packs, and a good amount of testing,” Berwick said.

Growth also meant evolving to face newer issues. “Once 2024 came around, we turned our sales plan to mainly wholesale, which came with a whole new set of challenges such as scaling production, ensuring our packaging meets the highest quality standards, while attracting customers behind a frosty door in the frozen dessert section of a grocery store, to positioning our products with the right stores and customers,” she said.

With an expanding list of distributors and retailers, Berwick explains another factor is “making sure our pricing is aligned with layering in another cost from that relationship,” “ensuring we have enough capital to support larger production runs and marketing spending” and making sure their products standout in a crowded market.

“And of course through all of this growth we have to remain innovative and nimble to grow brand loyalty and customer retention,” making sure Pastazerts stays appealing and fresh in all senses of the word.

“I look forward to every day,” Berwick says, “because entrepreneurship is highly exciting and was an aspiration for many years while I was still in my corporate career.” She sees its challenges as “good problems to have and, while sometimes very difficult, it’s so gratifying to solve each and every challenge that arises.”

But, she adds, one thing she didn’t anticipate with Pastazerts was the sheer excitement of “actually seeing your products on the shelf in stores. No matter how many stores we expand into, that feeling doesn’t get old and absolutely inspires me to keep going!”

For more information on Pastazerts go to Facebook, Instagram or

Photos courtesy of Pastazerts.

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