DALLAS TWP. — Lenny Chieffo worked on formulating his cheesecake recipe for years, and now he’s ready to share it with the region.
“I’ve gone that extra level for taste, that extra level for crunch and that extra level for deliciousness,” said Chieffo, the owner of Little Lenny’s Cheesecake Bakery.
Little Lenny’s Cheesecake Bakery, located at 3816 Yalick Plaza at Yalick Farms on Route 415, will open later this month with over 250 products ranging from gourmet cheesecakes, cakes, pies, specialty cookies and a selection of bread.
“You are not going to get any fresher than us,” the 58-year-old said, adding that even his cheesecake toppings are made fresh.
“The only thing that is out of a jar is the maraschino cherries and, if I could make them myself, I would,” he said.
Interest in the storefront with the brown paper covered windows is growing, Chieffo said.
A lot of people have been coming by to see if the bakery is open yet, he said.
Inside the bakery, cheesecake yellow colored walls with strawberry red accents await to greet patrons.
A sit-down area will give customers a space to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate along with a gourmet concoction.
Chieffo plans to offer a coffee bar that includes hot chocolate and organic tea, as well as a variety of fresh-baked goods.
“We will have over 250 products,” he said. “We will also offer gluten-free products.”
He will feature customized cheesecake flavors that include strawberry, blueberry, cookies-and-cream, peanut butter, plus specialty kid flavors such as bubble gum, tutti frutti and watermelon flavors.
Chieffo said he is open to flavor suggestions.
He said his neighbor’s 11-year-old grandson once challenged him to make a rootbeer float cheesecake.
After some consideration about the ingredients, Chieffo was able to meet that request.
“I love the science of baking,” he said.
Besides perfecting his recipes, the Hanover Township resident is also working out business details, such as hiring up to eight employees who will be trained to bake, operate the register, take orders and provide customer service.
Also, the point-of-sale programming can take seven to 10 days to download, he said.
These little hurdles are minor compared to the road he traveled to reach this point.
Chieffo started baking as a hobby nearly 12 years ago. But, when a stroke prohibited him from operating his painting business LJC Painting Inc., his hobby transitioned into a viable business opportunity.
“I could not be up on ladders and roofs anymore,” he said adding the stroke made him lose “the hearing in my right ear. I had what they called Wallenberg Syndrome that affects the brain stem for both sides of the body.”
“But I’m good now,” he said. “I’m about 99 percent back.”
Chieffo found baking to be therapeutic as he worked through physical rehabilitation to recover from the stroke.
He remembered sitting in a wheelchair at the family’s dining table making pumpkin rolls as part of his therapy and rehabilitation.
Then, he and his wife Kim began going on cheesecake-tasting excursions to experience what other bakeries were producing.
His friends, neighbors and family became his taste testers and provided feedback on taste and texture of his cheesecakes.
Chieffo recalled that one morning when he blended the right amount of flavors to achieve the perfect ingredient combination for his cheesecake base recipe.
He woke his wife up hours before she had to get up for work, with a fork in his hand, asking her to taste his newest recipe.
“My wife is my biggest supporter,” he said, laughing at the memory.
After many focus groups, marketing discussions and finding an investor to back his business, Chieffo found a commercial space to meet his needs at Yalick Plaza, a 9,000-square-foot retail space.
“It is a dream come true,” he said.
Yalick Farms developer J. Naparlo said he also has a pizza restaurant interested in one of the spaces and one to two national food-related chains. Naparlo declined to provide the business names, stating he is waiting for agreement confirmations.