"Cake Boss" Buddy Valastro is enjoying his growing fame, but not all of his longtime Hoboken customers are thrilled with the transformation of their local bakery into a tourist attraction.
As the 1-year-old TLC show shoots episodes for its third season, Carlo's City Hall Bake Shop is pulling in hundreds of fans a day. Some come from as far as Canada, Europe and even Asia.
On a recent Sunday, fans hoping to catch a glimpse of Valastro, hungry to sample his baked goods, waited on line in the rain. On sunny days, the line often snakes around the block.
"We came from Ontario - this is our first stop!" said Charlene Pellarin, 47, adding her daughter Jenna, 12, is a "big 'Cake Boss' fan."
No Hoboken residents were on the line - they tend to sneak into the 100-year-old bakery during off hours to pick up a box of cannolis, a crumb cake or lobster tail pastries, all made from scratch.
"It's very hard to go there anymore," said attorney Lisa Beckerman, 47, who has lived a block from the bakery for 22 years. "I used to go there every week. Now that line is so daunting. It used to be you'd just walk in, and maybe the line was five people."
The out-of-towners, however, are thrilled. When Valastro, 33, finally showed up that Sunday, sneaking in through a back door in the alley, an electric buzz surged through the crowd. Valastro waved and took pictures with fans. "I'm sorry you had to wait in the rain!" he called.
"We came all the way from Toronto just to meet Buddy," said Jane Strong, 43, who was there with her two boys. "We're very excited!"
With the reality show's third season kicking off May 31, the excitement likely will grow - along with the line.
The show - which came about after Valastro submitted a video of the family bakery to TLC - follows the master baker, his astonishing cake concoctions and the antics of the many family members of his who work there.
The exposure already has given business a big boost. "We were busy before - now we're like a busy bakery on steroids," Valastro said.
The shop, which Valastro's father, Buddy Sr., bought in 1963 and Valastro took over at 17 after his father died, produces 50 to 70 specialty cakes a week and 500 to 700 birthday cakes with a staff of 110.
Valastro, who lives in East Hanover, N.J., with his wife, Lisa, and three young children, has made specialty cakes for celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Rihanna and Britney Spears. The really ornate ones go for as much as $15,000.
Among his notable cakes, he has made a New York cityscape featuring nine 5-foot-tall buildings and - the largest yet - a life-size race car weighing 20,000 pounds.