John and Colleen Baker

Cheesy Eddie’s has been satisfying the sweet tooth of South Wedge residents and the Rochester area since 1976. In 2003, John and Colleen Baker took over the business from the original owners. Through hard work, and a consistent dedication to their customers, the business has continued to flourish.

Running a successful business is hard, staying married for 25 years is almost unheard of these days, and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is something that most of us can say that we have never done, nor will do in this lifetime. John and Colleen Baker have done all three, and after chatting with them for a while, it is easy to see why they have been so successful.

10/4 the Bakers

1. What’s in your fridge right now at home?

C – Lots of fruits and vegetables because we went to the Public Market this weekend – lots of condiments – I’m married to the “Condiment King.”

2. What book is in your bathroom?

J – When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box Participant’s Guide: Six Sessions on Living Life in the Light of Eternity – John Ortberg

3. What album/cd can you listen to over and over?

C – Lately I’ve been listening to the Les Miserable soundtrack – we have an eclectic taste in music – Mumford & Sons, Adele, Carly Simon.

4. Do you have any artist that you are ashamed that you love?

C -I’m not ashamed of Josh Groban!

5. What’s your must-see TV show?

Person of Interest

6. What would you be doing if you were not doing your current profession?

J – Professional basketball player

C – Medicine

7. What’s your least favorite sound?

J – Right now, the fan not running in the freezer

8. If you could pick any place to travel to, where would it be?

C – Israel or the Middle East – we’re both big adventurers so I can’t think of a place that we wouldn’t want to go to

9. What’s your favorite word?

C – I can tell you what John’s favorite word is – “yes, sure, we can do that!” Mine is “happy hour!”

Tell me about taking over Cheesy Eddie’s from the original owners.

John – I bought it from Eddie’s sister in 2003. I had pursed her for 12 years prior to that. We had our first negotiation in 1991 and finally in 2003, the 3rd time through was the charm. She was in a spot to sell and I was in a spot to buy. I still maintain another job at Merkel Donoghue at 200 South Avenue, I’ve been selling office furniture for them for 24 years.

Colleen – I’m here full time, when I’m not with the kids.

Do you live in the South Wedge?

J – We live in the boonies, I grew up in the country and I like the rural setting. We’re in East Penfield, a good golf ball drive away from the Wayne County line and about a 20-minute drive into the city. I love the city, I love working in the city – we’re here 10-14 hours a day, we eat here a lot and drink here a lot.

C – We used to live on the other side of the 19th ward and then we took a 3rd child into our family. We wanted land, we wanted a place where they could get a dog so we moved out and within 6 weeks of us moving out there, Marjorie (Cheesy Eddie’s previous owner) said “Okay, I’m ready to sell the business!” Many times we have thought about moving back to the city, but in the summer I love the land that we have.

After you took over the business, did the menu remain the same? The same recipes?

C – The recipes are all the same, but we have greatly expanded the flavors, they have more than doubled or tripled since we took it over. We created a new line. When we bought the place all the cheesecakes were classic, it was either swirled in or blended in or infused in so every bite had flavor. We knew that people buy with their eyes, and even though their cheesecake was fabulous, it’s nice to take it a party and have a wow factor, so we developed the over-the-top line. For example, the chocolate peanut butter cup, and cherry delight. Our first over-the-top line was pecan turtle and then carrot cake cheesecake.

C –The 3rd best-selling product in the store are the Jillian’s Delights. We already had cream cheese frosting and we already had oatmeal cookies and our son put them together. Jillian always used to get the frosting on the cookie, so everyone started to do it back in the kitchen. My son said “we should sell those” and he put them together and it looked like a big Little Debbie. I said to him “we just bought Cheesy Eddie’s, we can’t just put stuff in the case!” but John said “we should let him try it” and now our son is 22 and he has never said “I told you so.”

J – The single best selling item is the plain cheesecake and then the carrot cake is just behind total sales from the cheesecake. That’s a testimony to the carrot cake because we have 60 flavors of cheesecake and only one flavor of carrot cake but the carrot cake sales are almost the same.

When is your busiest time?

J – We get crushed starting mid-November, for the holidays and it doesn’t stop until January 1st, and it’s like a tidal wave. The holidays are astronomical, it’s fun. That’s a crazy, great time for us.

C – We love being a part of being someone’s family traditions – we hear it all the time. We are so blessed to be part of those celebrations.

J – We have a really hard-working, flexible, engaged team that makes it all possible.

You guys went to Kilimanjaro for your 25th wedding anniversary?

J – Yes, our anniversary is in the fall and we couldn’t do it then – so we went June 23rd to July 7th. The mountain was awesome.

How did you train?

C – I always say “the Lord orchestrates a lot of things” – we are clearly people of faith – and my daughter came to me last Fall and asked me to run a half marathon with her, and I hate to run! – but she’s 15 and said “We could do it together!” – so we ran the half marathon. Once I started running and training and had a goal, we decided in February to do the mountain, so I just continued to train. We got daypacks and filled them with weights, hiking boots; we found some really cool places in Rochester that I didn’t know existed to hike! Off Old Penfield Road there is a little park that I used to walk the dogs in; if you get down into it there are great hills and ravines. There are places down in Durand Eastman Park as well. We went out to Bristol and hiked it regularly, at least once a week, up and down. I wish we trained more with going straight down the hill because that’s what Kilimanjaro was and I struggled with that.

Tell me about the hike.

C – It was winter, so you layer, but you’re also above the cloud line, so when the sun is out it’s 60-70 degrees, it’s beautiful. When the sun goes down you scramble for your tent because it drops down to the 20s or 30s. You want to be in your sleeping bag and warm when that happens.

How long did it take you?

C – We took the 6-day route so that we could acclimate. There are 4-day, 5-day, and 6-day routes. Only crazy people do the 4-day route! A lot of people do the 5-day route because it’s cheaper. The 6-day route takes you up, and then the next day you go up a little bit more, sleep, and then the next day you go up and then back down, so you can acclimate further. So you are hiking up for 6 days and then on the 6th day you summit and then come way down and then sleep and finish on the 7th day.

J – It’s about 64 kilometers up and down total.

Did you have a guide with you?

C – Yes, we went with 3 couples and each couple has their own guide. What we learned is you have to be fit to do the mountain, but just because you are fit doesn’t mean you can do the mountain. The air is thin and it is a long, hard, hike.

J – It was beautiful, all the different views, sunrise and sunset.

C – You go through climate changes, you start in a tropical rainforest, then you reach a more forest-like area and then that even disappears and you are in shrubbery and rock and then you get to the top it’s like the surface of the moon, nothing grows up there, it’s just rock.

C – It’s funny, all the things you take for granted.  Where does your water come from on Day 5? Well, they have to boil it and strain the rocks and dirt out of it.

J – We had 23 people in our company, not including us. There were 3 guides, 2 cooks and 18 porters that did various things. One of the most amazing things that we saw was porters carrying up a 100 lb. metal stretcher up the mountain so they could transport anyone that was injured or sick off the mountain.

I’m sure you got lots of amazing pictures.

C – We did! We took about 600-700 on the mountain and about 1200 on safari which we went on afterwards.

J – Our safari lasted 4 days – we were not that far from the Serengeti – that was a great thing to do afterward, we got to see a ton of animals.

What do you see for the future of Cheesy Eddie’s?

C – We are always hesitant to say anything – it’s difficult to see, we are always interested in manageable growth, but we never want to compromise one iota of our product, our staff, our service – that is our hallmark. We want the best quality product and an awesome experience as a customer and we want our staff to love working here. There are lots of different markets – I would love to see us pursue corporate gifts, but ideally we would love to have another location at some point. We’re constantly playing with the line of products – coming up with new combinations of things.