By Valerie Vinyard
Ellie Lippel is always looking for ways to sweeten the pot.
Sweeten her customers’ pots, that is.
As the owner of Woops!, a bakery and dessert spot on University Boulevard next to Pei Wei, she caters to sweet teeth in Tucson.
Especially in these trying times, sometimes dessert is all we’ve got.
Guests walking into the compact space, they’ll notice the all-white interior, with exposed brick on one side and lots of flowers. The atmosphere is playful and welcoming.
“You can’t help but walk into the shop and smile,” she says. “It’s a feast for the senses.”
Her smiling eyes are often working behind the counter.
Woops! was started by her friends in New York, for whom she did marketing.
“As they were expanding, it was the perfect opportunity to bring it to Tucson,” she says. “It certainly was a new chapter for both of us. It was as an opportunity on a lot of different levels.”
So, Ellie and her sister, Naomi Lippel, opened a Tucson Woops! in August 2016. Ellie, who grew up in Tucson, lived in Israel and New York City for 15 years before returning to Tucson.
“We always wanted to do something together,” Ellie says.
Choosing a location close to the University of Arizona has helped, too. Ellie notes her shop gives a lot of European students a sense of home.
“Opening a business in Tucson is a gift,” says Ellie, who noted that before the pandemic, the shop sold about 9,500 to 10,000 macarons a month. “The community is so generous and kind. It’s been a joy.”
The 741-square-foot shop has an impressive display case of colorful macarons. The 16 flavors are created in a New York bakery, as macarons are “very finicky” to make. Tables are available outside for people who want to linger or enjoy one of the shop’s featured sandwiches.
Plenty of baking takes place in the Tucson shop, though. An array of pastries, including cookies and croissants, is created in house. Make sure to try the incredible pasteis de nata ($3), a Portuguese golden custard tart.
Joshua Manis, owner of Brain Stem, a company that provides enrichment programs to schools, is a fan of the Woops! almond croissant.
“They are delicious,” Manis says. “I’m glad I discovered them.”
Woops! macarons are about 2 inches in diameter and look like decadent sandwich cookies. A box of six costs $15, while other pastries range from $2.50 to $4.
Ellie counts the espresso macchiato as one of her favorite macaron flavors, with its real espresso-infused ganache topped with premium coffee beans, and the lemon tart, with its tangy tart flavor. Students love the Nutella, a rich filling made with the hazelnut spread and dark chocolate ganache; and red velvet, with a bright red shell dusted with chocolate powder and a cream cheese-flavored ganache.
Imported treats include chocolate-covered marshmallows from Germany. Woops! also features its own brand of espresso that goes with pastries. Ellie works with local bakers to introduce vegan treats, such as raspberry turnovers, blueberry sage scones and cookies. For those on special diets, Ellie notes that macarons are naturally gluten free, as they are made with almond flour.
Before Woops!, Ellie didn’t realize macarons could be so delicate or soft. She says her macarons will last five to seven days in the refrigerator, or they can be frozen for two months. Macarons are best served at room temperature but should be stored in the refrigerator.
Ellie says the Woops! macaron might seem different to first-timers, as many versions in the States are filled with butter cream. Woops! macarons have a delicate crunchiness and are more uniform in their consistency.
It’s also important to distinguish between macarons and macaroons, which contain shredded coconut and tend to be squishier.
Lippel enjoys being a part of people’s celebrations and will construct grand towers of macarons.
Especially nowadays, Ellie is convinced that people need to reward themselves.
“(Woops!) is a very special place,” she says. “It’s got more of a European flair to it. I knew Tucson needed it.”
845 E. University Boulevard
7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Fridays and Saturdays