THE READER
December 2003

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Producer Profile: Wisconsin Cheesecakery

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Producer Profile:
Wisconsin Cheesecakery

Lynn Olson
Member Services Manager


Another fine Williamson Street business has struck upon their own recipe for success and decadence for all of us to enjoy. Wisconsin Cheesecakery owners Lisa and Tim Lathrop are currently operating out of Pavlov’s Pizza kitchen on Williamson Street, where they bake their already famous cheesecakes.

Starting Her Own Business

In 1999 Lisa says she was searching for a sustainable business idea that they could believe in. “I had been baking cheesecakes for a long time and I’d always wanted to start my own business. I knew that it had to be something that I liked doing enough that I’d want to do it all the time. I knew I really love cooking and I really love baking, so one night I was up all night cooking and I thought 'You know, it’d be fun to start doing cheesecakes.'". With that thought, Lisa and Tim began creating Wisconsin Cheesecakery.

Learning the Ropes
It isn’t hard to picture Lisa, with her obvious high level of ambition, seeking out the resources needed to start her own business. The Lathrops learned how to conduct a feasibility study and write a business plan by taking advantage of courses offered through the Small Business Development Center through the UW Extension. There, they also received common sense tips about the typical pitfalls and challenges in starting a small business. After the initial legwork was done and with money of their own as capital to start the business, they hired an accountant and a lawyer and became an official corporation in 2001.

Supporting Community & the Environment
Their deep-seated goal and business philosophy was to support the Wisconsin economy and to create a business that was profitable without being hard on the environment. “When we first starting planning the business, we were thinking internet sales. As we looked into that we found that doing it all by internet and shipping cakes there would create a lot of non-recyclable waste. We didn’t want to have a business that contributed a lot of waste in the environment.” So, with an eye on community and on the environment, they decided on a local delivery business.

Kitchen Creation
Eventually, the time came for them to find or create a commercial kitchen in which to bake their cakes but one that would meet all of the stringent retail food production codes. Their search ended soon after a pizza delivery from their favorite pizza joint, Pavlov’s on Williamson. When the pizza arrived, the Lathrops sent a sample of one of their cheesecakes back to the store with the driver. The very next day, the owners of Pavlov’s phoned the Lathrops to let them know that was the best cheesecake they’d ever tasted. They also wanted to know where they could buy more. Eventually, the conversation turned into an offer to share the pizza kitchen during Pavlov’s off-hours.

Purposely Slow but Steady

Now, only two short years later, Wisconsin Cheesecakery is being carefully managed to grow at a safe pace. Their small business classes warned them of the pitfalls of growing too fast. Their goal is to keep the size of their operation manageable even though demand for their product is increasing all the time. They have a steadily growing special order business for birthday, weddings and anniversaries. In addition, Wisconsin Cheesecakery has also become a healthy wholesale business, selling their creations to several area businesses including the Willy Street Co-op.

Wisconsin Ingredients
While the majority of their cakes are baked with original Wisconsin ingredients, the owners also place an emphasis on organic and local ingredients when they’re available. Recently, the Lathrops received a special accolade from the people of Wisconsin and the Department of Agriculture. Their cheesecake scored over 88% in consumer satisfaction opinion polls at the Wisconsin State Fair, earning them the 2003 State Fair Award of Excellence.

Recipe Development
Lisa spends a considerable amount of time developing her recipes, sometimes revising and experimenting for months. In addition to the traditional sweet cheesecakes, Wisconsin Cheesecakery has also begun offering a savory cream cheese appetizer. Lisa said, “It took eight months to develop the savory appetizer recipe with a secret blend of three cheeses and, so far, no one’s been able to correctly identify the three cheeses. Finally, after input from everyone who sampled it, I got it to where the taste that was in my mind was in the product.” Well worth the wait, that mushroom and wild rice appetizer, as well as their Mediterranean olive appetizer are now available at the Willy Street Co-op Cheese counter.

Calling Ahead
All orders placed with Wisconsin Cheesecakery are still hand-delivered by Lisa and Tim, although a lot of customers who call would like the opportunity to pick them up at the kitchen. While they don’t currently have ready-made cheesecakes for sale and no storefront hours, Lisa and Tim are considering introducing both.

Get Some Now at the Co-op
So, whether you’re buying for a special occasion or you want to treat yourself or your family to a real Wisconsin cheesecake, you can find some of their flavors at the Willy Street Co-op: Dulce de Leche, a masterful combination of cream cheese and caramel in a cookie crust; Chocolate Raspberry; or Key Lime. They showed their commitment to the Co-op early in their development when Lisa was also called upon to create an alternative cheesecake to satisfy the large number of vegans shopping at the Co-op. With help from vegan friends and associates, Lisa developed a scrumptious vegan chocolate peanut butter cheesecake and continues to provide a rotating seasonal selection of vegan offerings (currently pumpkin) available in the Juice Bar cold case. More incredible flavors are also available by calling Wisconsin Cheesecakery directly to place an order at 219-5438 or by emailing them at wicheesecakery@charter.net.