Junior stays on top of the cheesecake game

As the heavenly scent of fresh cheesecake rises in the air, the floor of Junior Cheesecakes & Deserts is buzzing with activity. Workers load 6-inch pots with 1-inch slices of sponge cake before filling them with their signature New York-style filling and loading them into pans that will set in an oven.

Today’s crew makes 6-inch Strawberry Swirl and Original, which remains the most popular flavor.

“Right now we are doing a clear job,” said owner Alan Rosen, who considered this statement for a moment before reviewing it. “New York style. creative. Nothing is clear about them.

The recipe is the same that Mr. Rosen’s grandfather, Harry Rosen, served at the Junior Restaurant and Bakery when it opened 72 years ago in Brooklyn, New York. It is an essential part of his proud family legacy, and part of the legacy he holds dearly. He calls them mother-and-pop cheesecakes.

“Some are golden brown, some are a little darker, some are lighter,” he said. “The same way we were making them in 1950 is the same way we make them now. We may have more automation involved, but not a single presentation of that pie has changed.”

What has changed is the size and scope of the work. The bakery had a phenomenal 52% revenue growth last year and a 30% increase so far this year. The bakery moved seven years ago to its current building in Burlington, New Jersey, which is five times larger than its previous facility in Queens, New York. It has enjoyed double digit growth over the past six years. Ninety new employees were hired last year, and the company is in the midst of adding several pieces of new equipment to bolster operations.

This kind of rapid expansion could cause more than a few problems, particularly in an industry grappling with rising costs, supply chain and workforce issues. While Junior certainly had some challenges, it didn’t slow them down.

“This is organic growth,” Mr. Rosen said. “Most of our existing customers were entirely responsible for our 52% growth last year. What happened during COVID is people who might not have bought a $10 or $12 or $15 or $17 cake at the grocery store, they bought it because they were at home. They would go out to eat. I think we were lucky. They adopted our brand very quickly.”

Mr. Rosen was in place as he led a tour of the bakery, bumping fists and greeting staff along the way. He clearly enjoys the work, crunching numbers on production as he weaves between equipment and shelves of cheesecakes either ready to bake or to refrigerate after baking.

“He has an amazing relationship with every single employee he has,” said Jason Schwartz, Jr., president, who oversees 18 managers, bakery operations and sales, among other things. “He’s the engine that keeps this company running. That’s the way I look at it. He’s just a great person to work for….never slowing down.”

The bakery employs 229 full-time workers, up from 140 a year ago. Two baking shifts, one packaging shift and one decorating shift are run five days a week, with daily maintenance done in between.

“Production starts at 4 am, we will bake until 2:30 pm, then we will clean and wash the whole room,” Mr. Schwartz explained. “Then we start baking again at 6 p.m., and we’ll go until 4 a.m..”

Mr. Rosen said finding and maintaining a workforce has not been an issue at Junior, even though the company is constantly recruiting and training.

“People come to us. We train, we train, we hug, we encourage from within.” “The person managing human resources for the entire company started as a hostess at one of our restaurants. Jason ran a retail store in Grand Central Station.”

Mr. Rosen is proud of his staff, who, he said, “work on their tail.”

“We hope that what separates this bakery from the others is the culture, the attention to detail, and the commitment we all made,” he said.

Besides Mr. Rosen and Mr. Schwartz, the management team at the bakery includes Magdalena Kerr Iaco, General Manager/Vice President; Jeremy Carlin, Director of Operations; Renee Cain, Director of Human Resources; Anna Poslenova, Head of Human Resources; Brian Trunell, Quality Assurance Manager/HACCP Coordinator; and Chris Samara, Chief Engineer.

As he makes his way through the bakery on this production day, Mr. Rosen has been watching, training and asking questions. At one point, he removed a 6-inch cake from the packaging line because he noticed a small piece had been offset, meaning it wasn’t up to standards. Later, he wonders why heart-shaped cakes for Mother’s Day are not decorated according to the golden standard rules. (Answer: Gold plates will trigger metal detectors.)

“I’ve been managing everything singly in detail. We can no longer do that, though old habits obviously do not die easily, and he is always looking for areas where we can improve,” Mr. Rosen explained.

Attached to the bakery is an outlet store that sells not only first-run cakes and chips but also cakes sold at a discount that may have an impact. Mr. Rosen still runs four restaurants that sell donuts: the original Junior Restaurant in Brooklyn, two in Manhattan and one at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.

But there are plenty of places to get Jun-ior cheesecake, fresh or raw, and this list continues to grow. They are sold on Junior’s website and on the QVC home shopping network. Junior cakes are also sold in in-store bakeries, and retail items can be purchased at 9,000 grocery stores. Also sold through distributors to foodservice customers across the country, the company’s club business is expanding significantly, particularly with Costco.

“They’ve been a tremendous partner,” said Mr. Schwartz.

The bakery is looking to expand into more areas as well.

“We are very strong in the Northeast, but our business is progressing successfully in other areas of the country as well,” said Mr. Rosen. “At some retailers, in all regions we cover the entire USA. In other countries, we are more than the Midwest, and we are currently gaining distribution in the Southeast and Southwest.”

This article is an excerpt from the June 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the full feature on Cheesecake and Junior Desserts, click here.

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