For the past 46 years, Eileen’s Cheesecake has been serving handmade light and creamy cheesecakes ever since founder, Eileen Avezzano, began baking her delicious cheesecakes from her signature family recipe and “selling” them out of her apartment. With family at the heart of this women-owned business, Eileen’s is now run by Eileen’s daughters, Holly Maloney and Bonnie Ponte, who carry on Eileen’s legacy and passion for cheesecake.
Holly and Bonnie – both Cheesecake connoisseurs – love keeping their mother alive through these fresh and daily made cakes which come in a variety of flavors from Classic Plain to Salted Caramel and Cookies n’ Cream. They are the perfect balance of sweet and tangy and made with hand-pressed graham cracker crust as well as a chocolate cookie crust.
Celebrities and Instagrammers alike line up for these treats, and it’s no surprise that these one-of-a kind cheesecakes were also named “Best Cheesecakes in America” last year by Food & Wine Magazine.
Aside from being working women, mothers and juggling a small business – Holly and Bonnie are also working hard to serve their community and beyond! We were able to speak to them about all of this AND just in time for National Cheesecake Day, which is on July 30th – yummy!
What is Eileen’s Cheesecake?
Holly Maloney: Eileen’s Cheesecake is a light and creamy New York cheesecake made with cream cheese and love.
What is Eileen’s background? What are both of your backgrounds (Holly and Bonnie?)
Bonnie Ponte: Eileen moved to NYC when she was 18 years old, she worked for RCA records and dreamed of becoming a Rockette! She said she felt she was meant to do great things when she moved to New York from Philadelphia – she was right! When I was in high school she ran our Eileen’s Café in Rego Park, Queens. My background is in building code consulting/permitting and Holly’s background is in advertising. However, growing up, both Holly and I worked for my mom every holiday.
What are 3 lessons your mom taught you about running a business?
Holly Maloney: The 3 P’s – Product, Passion and Perseverance!
Bonnie Ponte: Always do what you love.
What are 3 lessons you can share with other small biz owners?
- To make it great, make it with love.
- The road to success is always under construction.
- Never use adversity as an excuse, use it as motivation.
What are your favorite quote(s)?
Holly Maloney: There is no can’t only won’t, and all of the above!
Working hard seems very important to you, what are some of your favorite “days” or special parts of your job?
Bonnie Ponte: Being in the food industry, you understand that holidays are when we work the most. Our mom would shine during the hardest working days of the year because she absolutely loved how her passion was a part of people’s holiday tradition. No matter where Bonnie & I were in our lives and careers, we always worked the holidays with our mom, so even though we worked through every holiday, it was always about family and tradition.
If you switched careers, what would you both be doing?
Holly Maloney: Bonnie and I both had/have careers, I left the advertising industry after 16 years when my step-dad’s health diminished and he needed to retire from the bakery. Bonnie and I always planned to grow the business and our mom’s legacy, so it was the perfect time for me to join mom full time. That was about 10 years ago. So, if I had to switch careers, I would go back to the advertising industry.
Was taking over the family biz always important to you? Especially in honor of your late mother?
Bonnie Ponte: ALWAYS. The three of us were always glued together – hence our logo – and our bond goes far beyond any earthly explanation! Our mom is still very much with us in everything we do and every decision we make. This is all about living the lessons she taught us while sharing the love and passion of delicious cheesecake and beyond. You can taste the love and quality in every bite!
Being working women in today’s society is hard, is it especially tough in the food and beverage space? If so, how?
Holly Maloney: Life is hard, but we were taught by the best. This business and I were born a few months apart, in 47 years I have witnessed and or experienced every challenge our mom went through up to and including 9/11, a fire that was in the apartment above our bakery, but still shut our storefront down for over 6 months and many other bumps along the way. Watching how our mom dealt with hard times taught us to rise to the occasion, look for the silver lining and persevere- find a way, there is no can’t only won’t! So, what does a woman, who started baking cheesecake at home many years ago, do when her store is shut down due to a fire?
She goes and gathers her baking pans, finds a commissary the very same day that we could bake in, and starts to bake! I can still remember her calling the restaurants and cafes she wholesaled to that very same evening… “Hi it’s Eileen, just wanted to let you know the store will be closed for a while due to a fire, no one was hurt and everything is fine, we will still be delivering whatever you need”. Nothing short of amazing. I also remember a particularly stressful situation during the holidays one year, we had a tremendous order that was being trucked to big customer, the truck had stopped short and the entire order was smashed. Thousands of dollars gone. Eileen didn’t flinch at the loss of product, but was devastated that the customer would not be receiving this order as planned! It was about the people, not the money, and even when she needed the money it was always about the people. She reached a point where she could retire, but she chose to work – why? Because my cheesecake makes people happy. And it always will!!
I was excited to find out about National Cheesecake Day, yum! Why is this such an important/meaningful day for you/the brand?
Bonnie Ponte: When National food holidays became a thing – more importantly National Cheesecake Day, Mom was all over it! Every year on the anniversary of Eileen’s Special Cheesecake, she would come up with a new flavor cheesecake to celebrate the occasion. She would practically give everything away at the celebration! When people caught on to National food holidays, she decided to celebrate her anniversary on National Cheesecake Day- a day where everyone, everywhere wanted to celebrate CHEESECAKE!
What is the future of Eileen’s Cheesecake?
Holly Maloney: Our mom never wanted the headache of multiple stores or expanding, although she had endless opportunities to do so. You know the saying bad news travels fast? Well, delicious news travels faster! Eileen quickly became world famous. When people come to New York they want cheesecake, they look for the best and find us, and then they tell someone who tells someone who tells someone and so on! Eileen has baked with iron chefs around the world dubbed in every language! She is also in tour guide books around the world, so people find us when they come to New York. The future holds so much promise to expand.
For more on Eileen’s, visit: eileenscheesecake.com. Eileen’s is offering a complimentary classic individual cheesecake when you buy any cheesecake from on Thursday, July 30th, 2020. Don’t forget to follow along on Instagram at @EileensCheesecake!