Say Cheesecake - Wilson Post 2013


Say Cheesecake.
By KEN BECK
The Wilson Post
For the past three years Tennessee Cheesecake may have been Mt. Juliet’s sweetest best-kept secret.
 
For example, did you know the mother-and-son run company, which began in 1981 and moved to Mt.
Juliet in 2010, bakes a half million cheesecakes a year and ships to NUMBER states?
 
Their rich and creamy desserts have been delighting gourmets at restaurants across the U.S. for
decades, but the word is now getting out to Wilson Countians.
 
As for what makes their cheesecake stand out among the dessert crowd, Valerie Wilson, founder and
president of Tennessee Cheesecake says, “It’s the quality of our products and our original
honey-graham-pecan crust which was especially unique.”
 
With the Yuletide about to peak, two work shifts have been running full speed ahead at the bakery that
employs 26 fulltime workers and another 10 to 15 for the holidays.
 
“This is definitely a big season for us,” said Will Wilson, vice president and Valerie’s right-hand son,
noting they make 25 types of cheesecakes in 100 different varieties, sizes, shapes and flavors.
Besides their rich, creamy cheesecakes, which come in such flavors as strawberry swirl, chocolate
drop, turtle and the original cheesecake that catapulted their business forward, they also produce pies
and brownies.
 
“Our best seller is our original, the one that started it all, our version of a great classic cheesecake,” said
Will.
 
For Wilson Countians with a sweet tooth, the good news is that Tennessee Cheesecake, which does 90
percent of its business with national restaurants, offers its desserts directly to the public at a small
counter at the bakery.
A popular product here is their Gourmet Cheesecake Assortment that features three slices apiece of
strawberry swirl, chocolate drop, turtle and the original, thus it’s one cheesecake with four flavors.
 
Tennessee Cheesecake was conceived 32 years ago in Valerie’s home kitchen in Green Hills when son
Will was a 1-year-old babe.
 
“My first client was [late restaurateur] Ray Danner, who owned the Fifth Quarter and Sailmaker
restaurants in Nashville. I knocked on his front door with my cheesecake in Tupperware. He loved it,”
recalled Valerie.
 
“He told me, ‘Put it a box and package it. We’ll put in our restaurants,’ and he did. He gave us our start
so other restaurants came afterward.”
 
“We’ve been located in a couple of different spots, but it began in my mom’s regular home kitchen, and
the company has become the epitome of the American dream,” said Will.
 
Will joined forces with his mother in 2003 after earning a music technology degree at Middle Tennessee
State University.
 
“I graduated and needed a job, and I wound up running the mixer in our bakery. I always had a very
entrepreneurial spirit and deep down was attracted to the business from that standpoint.”
 
“Now he’s running the company. Yay!” exclaimed Valerie, a Gallatin native.
 
“Mom is the reason for our success. She is our guiding force. She is also in charge of all the research
and development. The reason we do it best is because of my mother in the kitchen,” said Will, to whom
most of the day-to-day management tasks have been delegated.
 
“We do a lot of custom products for our restaurants, lots of custom desserts for the restaurant industry.”
 
Will notes that they make 2,000 regular cheesecakes a day as well as 10,000 to 15,000 individual-sized
products per day. The range varies from ½-ounce appetizers to 5-pound restaurant size desserts.
 
In 2010, the business needed to expand and moved to Mt. Juliet to share space and equipment with a
local bakery, The Pie Basket.
 
“They wanted to get out of the baking business, and because it was an existing bakery, it was ideal for
us,” said Will.
 
His mother now lives in the West Wilson County community and declares, “I love Mt. Juliet.”
 
Her favorite of their myriad of tempting desserts?
 
“The original cheesecake,” she says.
 
As for Will, he favors the turtle cheesecake.
 
“Yummy!” adds Valerie, who should know. After all, as the company motto goes, she, her son and their
bakery folks have become experts at “making life just a little sweeter.”

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