Tucson’s Main Gate Square sports a chic new bakery called Woops!
The Woops! phenomenon got its start in 2012 with a pop-up holiday kiosk in New York’s Bryant Square Park selling nothing but macarons, the petite, colorful French sandwich cookies (as opposed to macaroons, the chewy coconut cookies often served at Passover). The company soon grew, opening macaron kiosks and full-service bakeshops up and down the East Coast.
Ellie Lippel, 47, was among the small group of friends who started Woops!, and on Aug. 29, she and one of her three sisters, Naomi Lippel, 54, opened a Woops! Bakeshop at 845 E. University Blvd. in Tucson — the first Woops! in the West.
The Lippel sisters had a simple reason for setting up shop in Tucson: They wanted to be near their parents, Bea and Bert Lippel.
“We knew our parents are getting older and they were going to need some help figuring out how to navigate the next several years,” says Naomi, “and Ellie and I both decided, let’s get back now, before there’s any kind of crisis, and we’ll be there for them and do this [Woops!] venture, which was truly an adventure.”
The elder Lippels still live in the family home, “near Anshei,” says Ellie. Their sister Miriam also lives in Tucson, while Rebecca lives in San Francisco.
Ellie grew up in Tucson, attending Tucson Hebrew Academy from fourth through eighth grades, and joining BBG, the Jewish youth group. She went to Israel for her freshman year of college, “which turned into the extended dance version,” she says, making her sister laugh. Ellie stayed in Israel for 15 years, getting a political science degree from Hebrew University and working in communications at various organizations, ending up at the Peres Center for Peace before moving to New York, where she lived for another 15 years before returning to Tucson.
Naomi was in high school when the family moved here from Denver. She was a BBG member, too, and attended Rincon High School and the University of Arizona before moving out of state, getting her degree in English, with a minor in business, from the University of New Mexico. Having spent the last 21 years working for a nonprofit organization in Albuquerque, “I was ready for a change,” she says. But she is surprised how much she enjoys running a café, and interacting directly with patrons, many of whom have become regulars. “It’s been a real treat,” she says.
For Ellie, who worked in marketing and development for Woops! in New York, running the shop has also been different and fun, despite the long hours. “We are loving it,” she says.
With its European vibe, the bakery attracts international students from the UA, including Israelis, giving her a chance to brush up on her Hebrew.
The décor is rustic, reminiscent of a French country farmhouse, and the sisters enjoy adding little touches, like pretty porcelain plates just the right size for a single macaron.
The café also serves sandwiches and coffee — the combination of good coffee and good pastry was hard to find in Tucson, says Ellie, which has helped make Woops! a success.
Since Woops! was started by an international circle of friends from Israel, France, India and the United States, the pastry lineup is international, too. Much of it is created in the main bakery in the Bronx, N.Y., and shipped par-baked to Tucson. But their croissants are imported from France — “they’re the real deal,” says Naomi — and their Belgian waffles, which rival the macarons in popularity, are from Belgium.
While the café is not kosher, Woops! macarons, available in 18-20 flavors, are kosher-certified by the Orthodox Union and can be delivered in sealed packaging, Ellie notes.
Woops also carries Jewish-inspired rugelach, but with updated flavors like sweet Nutella and savory jalapeno and pizza. The sisters joke that they won’t sell customers rugelach until they learn to say it properly, with a throaty “kh” at the end.
Living again in Tucson, they are impressed with the growth of the downtown, and with the community spirit of other vendors in the community, who are “very open to collaboration and finding ways to support one another,” says Ellie.
Patrons have also been extraordinarily friendly, says Naomi, and were patient with their initial “growing pains.”
“It’s such a lovely community. It’s made doing this new venture such a positive experience,” she says.