Images by Katie Noble
Tiny 2-inch cheesecakes sit on the thinnest layer of a graham cracker crust. The consistency holds together well, but tends more toward light and fluffy than dense, New York-style. But make no mistake—these are not mousse, they are for-real cheesecakes. Well thought-out in flavor, texture, ingredients, and mouth feel, 7ate9 Bakery, which only makes cheesecakes, knows what they’re doing. And you can only find them at farmers markets—or delivered directly to your door.
7ate9 Bakery is the baby of Sarah Chester, who has been 27 years old “for a few years now,” as she puts it. She went to school for psychology, then moved into the corporate world. Although she’d been “attempting to cook all my life,” the energetic entrepreneur found out that she was a natural born baker, fascinated by the science of baking. “I worked on my recipe for three years,” admits Chester, who has the kind of stick-to-itiveness required by any artisanal food producer. As week after week she gave away cheesecakes while testing, suddenly people started wanting to order them—and she knew she was very close to quitting her day job.
You might have thought that doing accounting in the corporate world was light years away from the grind of baking. But Chester’s tenacity allowed her to approach “about 50 different bakeries, kitchens, and pizza joints,” as she tried to find a kitchen to share. She needed a very large space to bake in, one that would allow for the storing of her ingredients, and refrigerator space for the finished product. Just as this next big challenge seemed to be going nowhere, she met the owners of La Patisserie in Winchester who were willing to help her get her start.
The next challenge was, “how do I sell these cakes without a storefront? How will people know about me?” Enter the efficacy of farmers markets. Though she does not yet know which markets she’ll be in this summer, her website will update customers.
Chester now makes a couple hundred cakes a week, mostly the minis, which are sold by the dozen, but there are also 9” cheesecakes and a smaller 4” cake. She’s got classic, chocolate (using Taza chocolate), cookies and cream, red velvet, mocha, peanut butter, and some seasonal bases. Lemon was seasonal last summer, but about to become a year-round flavor. Gingerbread and pumpkin cheesecakes come in the fall. “And I’m considering doing a peach cheesecake when peaches are in season this year,” says Chester.
Part of her business model has been to work with local ingredients, farms, and other local food vendors when possible. These local collaborations lend themselves to cross promotions, which provide a win-win model for all. And Chester’s unrelenting commitment to her product and what she’s doing is paying off. Her business became sustainable after only one year. “But I still work nights to keep myself sustainable,” says the baker who bakes both night and day—but hopefully not for long.
The novel, innovative part of her business is that she delivers her cheesecakes when she’s not selling at a farmers market. Without a storefront, she was worried how people could find her, how to get product to her customers. “My delivery business is very busy, but I haven’t lost money doing deliveries, and it’s a way to stay connected until I eventually have a storefront.” Changing the model—changing the paradigm—paid off.
And no doubt there will be a storefront with a big kitchen in the back in Sarah Chester’s future. She’s just that goal-oriented and motivated. In fact, she operates with a plan for each immediate month, a plan for next year, a three-year plan, “and a BHAG— big hairy awesome goal!”
We’ll just have to wait for that one.
7ate9 Bakery 7ate9Bakery.com
Rachel Travers is a freelance food and lifestyle writer who has been contributing to the Boston Globe for 16 years—and to Edible Boston for its proud seventh! She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.