Eileen's Special Cheesecake opened for business in December, 1974, and arrived in lower Manhattan on December 4, 1976. Our location at 17 Cleveland Place, opposite Spring and Lafayette Streets at the corner of Kenmare and Centre Streets, was not even listed on most maps. Cleveland Place has only about five buildings on the street. The Police headquarters on Centre Street had vacated, and all the area businesses closed up. It was a “ghost town” when I first arrived, but that didn’t bother me because the rent was low and I desperately needed a place to bake for my growing wholesale business. I hadn’t considered the retail aspects of the business until people started knocking on the door of the bakery wanting to buy cheesecake.
With that encouragement, I purchased a bakery case and began to conduct retail business. Soon after our cheesecake attracted the Press and we were listed in “Best Bets” in New York Magazine. Radio station WOR rated us “Number One” cheesecake and we appeared on television quite often whipping up a batter of cheesecake.
We eventually began to ship our cheesecakes overnight anywhere in the United States, which opened up a new market for us. However, Cleveland Place continued to be a difficult location for New Yorkers to find. Although we are around the corner from the Spring Street subway stop, there was not much to bring people to the area in those days, except for cheesecake.
The summer of 2000, we signed our first lease with the Port of Authority to put a kiosk in the outdoor area between the two towers of The World Trade Center. Every afternoon, from May to September, we would sell our cheesecakes to people who worked in the buildings and to tourists. There was entertainment every afternoon, and it was great being able to represent New York’s favorite dessert (cheesecake).
Unfortunately, that all ended on September 11th. Our kiosk was destroyed, but fortunately our employee was not on duty yet. Business at Cleveland Place declined, because subway service was cut off and no one was walking around downtown.
For six months, we kept our workforce busy baking for the rescue workers. Time passed, and now Cleveland Place is in a popular area where the mix of people and restaurants and shops are so unique. Downtown is becoming the “place to be”, and we are actually on most maps now. We survived difficult times, and now “let the good times roll”!
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