Oftentimes when Wisconsin residents think of a favorite dessert, a delicious cheesecake from Suzy’s Cream Cheesecakes & Distinctive Desserts comes to mind. This award-winning Wisconsin business has been setting the standards in the dessert industry since the mid ’80s, all due to the vision and passion of founder Suzy Strothmann. And Oak Creek is lucky to have Suzy’s headquartered right here in a new 49,000-sq.-ft. facility on South Howell Ave.
Suzy’s Cream Cheesecakes are sold nationwide. They can be found in most local grocery stores and are served at area restaurants including Pizza Man, Meyers Family Restaurant, NYPD (New York Pizza Delivery), Chubby’s Cheesesteaks and El Señorial. The most popular flavors include New York, Turtle, and Strawberry and Cream. The company also features several cheesecake variety packs centered around a theme, like chocolate, candy bar or ice cream flavors — plus petite individuals servings. Plus, Suzy’s produces carrot cakes, chocolate fudge tortes, turtle fudge brownies, espresso brownies and more.
The story behind Suzy’s Cream Cheesecakes dates back to Suzy’s childhood. She was born into a large family in small-town Manawa, Wis. (population 1,300), the thirteenth of 15 children. To stretch the family’s budget, her mom baked all her own breads, cookies, pies and cakes from scratch. The sense of warmth and pride attached to all these home-baked goods was instilled in Suzy early in life. By 1983, she had a family of her own (five children and a working husband) and was a stay-at-home mom like her own mother. She found herself looking for creative ways to pass the time, so she started to bake. Meanwhile, her husband Mark was running one of Milwaukee’s top restaurants. This led them to travel whenever they could, seeking new menu ideas.
On one of their trips in 1982, they stopped at a small café in St. Helena, Calif., where they sampled a chocolate cheesecake unlike anything they had ever tasted. The waiter’s description of this dessert had intrigued them, prompting them to order it. A typical cheesecake of that era was white, plain and always baked on a graham cracker crust. Yet, when this particular cheesecake arrived, it was gloriously rich with semi-sweet chocolate, creamy beyond belief and baked on a buttered crust of crushed chocolate cookie wafers. Mark immediately asked Suzy if she thought she could bake something like it for the restaurant. Of course, she said “yes,” and the idea of Suzy’s Cream Cheesecake business began to form.
Soon, Suzy’s cheesecakes became so popular at Mark’s restaurant that dinner customers began ordering whole cakes for carry out. It was then that Suzy decided to open her own store. The first shop had only one oven, one refrigerator and 250 sq. ft. for baking and sales. On the first full day of work, Suzy and her niece managed to bake eight cheesecakes that sold out by the next afternoon. Fast forward 30+ years, and you now find Suzy’s cheesecakes and desserts sold in the finest grocery stores across America. And while the number of cheesecakes baked every day has increased dramatically, Suzy’s early memories of her mom’s scratch baking have bound her to the philosophy of using only the finest, freshest ingredients available. She never scrimps on quality.
Today, Suzy’s Cream Cheesecakes & Distinctive Desserts has 65 full-time employees and remains a family-run business. Suzy’s husband Mark is in charge of IT and Systems Administration and plays an active role in planning the future of the business. Suzy’s son Mark works in sales and customer service. And her son-in-law Mark Kirchner is president and CEO. As for Suzy herself, she continues to be active in the business, working on new product development and collaborating with her husband on decisionmaking and business planning.
According to Kirchner, Suzy’s new Oak Creek location has worked out extremely well for the company. “We particularly enjoy having great access to the freeway for shipping our products. And we are proud to be a part of Oak Creek’s recent growth,” he says, adding, “The City is a thriving and growing community with great dining and entertainment options.” Suzy’s Cream Cheesecakes is proud to be a strong community partner, donating to various area charities as well as opening its doors to the Oak Creek High School Culinary program. Additionally, charitable groups can partner with Suzy’s on their own fundraising efforts.
While there are dozens of commercially produced cheesecakes available, Suzy’s Cream Cheesecakes & Distinctive Desserts still rise to the top. Thanks go to Suzy for building her passion into this nationally recognized business. We are proud to have you call Oak Creek home!
Suzy’s Cream Cheesecakes & Distinctive Desserts
9911 s. Howell Ave. • (414) 453-2255 • suzys.com
If you are looking to ship a cheesecake or other dessert item, Suzy’s partners with several Wisconsin retailers, like Nueske’s and Wisconsin Made (visit suzys.com for more information).
After 14 years in St. Francis, Suzy’s Cream Cheesecakes Inc. is now officially open in Oak Creek.
The 44,200-square-foot facility at 9911 S. Howell Ave. is more than quadruple the size of its former 10,000-square-foot St. Francis location at 1775 E. Bolivar Ave.
“We were very near capacity in St. Francis,” said Mark Kirchner, president and chief executive officer. “In order for the business to keep growing, we needed a larger space and more capacity.”
Suzy’s, a producer of cheesecakes and other desserts, had been running the St. Francis plant 24 hours per day, six or seven days per week for the past three years depending on the time of year, according to Kirchner. Now, he expects the new plant to run 12 hours per day, five days per week.
Now in the larger Oak Creek facility, Suzy’s expects to produce about four times as much product each year. Kirchner declined to disclose the company’s annual production rate.
With the new space, Suzy’s was also able to increase its baking, freezing and storage capacity, and it has made a “substantial” investment in new equipment, Kirchner said.
The company also will be hiring a yet to be determined number of production and office employees in the next few months, Kirchner said. Currently, it employs 120 to 130, which includes both full-time employees and temporary employees who are hired during busy times of the year.
Suzy’s shut down production at its St. Francis plant on May 11, but it has been in operation in Oak Creek since early April, Kirchner said. It officially opened its Oak Creek doors to the public, for retail sales, on May 19.
The opening comes four-and-a-half years after Suzy’s first began planning for a new facility, according to Kirchner.
Suzy’s initially announced in 2011 it was moving to a 50,000-square-foot building in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley, but later dropped those plans. Kirchner went on to look at 123 industrial properties in southeastern Wisconsin before selecting the Oak Creek location in 2013.
“Oak Creek had the building that fit our needs,” said Kirchner, citing the requirement of a clean, wide-open space and the desire for a nearby location that would allow for a similar commute for employees.
The building, which Suzy’s is leasing for 20 years, was formerly occupied by C-Graphics LLC, according to Doug Seymour, Oak Creek director of community development.
Kirchner declined to disclose financial details, but he said the new building will “absolutely” allow Suzy’s to grow.
He did say, however, that the company’s sales recently doubled year-over-year for four years in a row.
“What’s driving the growth is No. 1, we make the best cheesecake in the country,” Kirchner said. “And we have new, innovative items driving growth both in cheesecakes and desserts.”
Cheesecake enrobed in chocolate is one such example, but the company is developing new concepts on a weekly basis. In addition to a robust research and development team, Kirchner said Suzy’s maintains a focus on customer service and quality.
Suzy’s Cream Cheesecakes was founded in 1983 by Suzy Strothmann. Before moving to St. Francis in 2001, it was located at 5901 W. Vliet St. in Milwaukee.
The Oak Creek building was purchased in 2014 by an affiliate of Port Washington-based Ansay Development from an affiliate of Milwaukee-based Van Buren Management Inc. for $2 million, according to state records.
An Oak Creek industrial building proposed as the new home for Suzy’s Cream Cheesecakes Inc. has received city approval for some renovations to accommodate the company.
The Plan Commission on Tuesday night approved changes to the 44,200-square-foot former commercial printing facility, at 9911 S. Howell Ave., said Kari Papelbon, a city planner. Suzy’s plans to begin that work as soon as possible, she said.
Suzy’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Kirchner couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
Suzy’s, which now has around 50 employees at 1775 E. Bolivar Ave., St. Francis, plans to have 90 employees at the Oak Creek building, according to a city report.
The Oak Creek Common Council in January approved a $2.2 million industrial revenue bond sale to help finance Suzy’s move from its longtime St. Francis production facility to the Howell Ave. building.
The city would not be a lender nor a guarantor of the tax-exempt bonds.
Oak Creek would allow an affiliate of Port Washington-based Ansay Development Corp. to borrow money from a private lender by selling bonds issued in the city’s name.
The lender would accept a lower interest rate from the Ansay affiliate because the lender doesn’t pay federal taxes on municipal bonds.
The Oak Creek building was later sold to that affiliate, Howell Avenue Oak Creek LLC, by an affiliate of Milwaukee-based Van Buren Management Inc. for $2.05 million, according to state real estate records posted in March.
The company in 2011 proposed a new facility in Milwaukee, at the Menomonee Valley Industrial Center. But those plans didn’t proceed.
Also, Suzy’s last year considered building a new facility in Belgium, in Ozaukee County.