Clarksville, TN – Even if you have not yet tried B’s Cheesecakes, you’ve almost certainly heard about the amazing dessert classics that are being produced at the little shop tucked away on Riverside Drive.
Bonita Lacey is the mastermind/talent behind the shop’s success, but since her humble beginnings, B’s has truly become a family business.
Lacey says that in the beginning, if her friends bought the ingredients, she would make the cakes for free.
“People loved them, and word spread, and finally, after talking to the woman that owned My oh My Fried Pies at the market, we decided to give this a shot,” Lacey said. “She said, ‘I bet you could sell these’, so, at the end of the season we set up a few times, and we sold out every time.”
Lacey continued with her baking passion, and things were going well. But, she and her husband looked at their current shop for a year or more before making the leap.
“I looked at it and wanted it,” Lacey said. “It was the Mixing Bowl 305 North Riverside Drive. We chose not to do it at first. Eventually, we agreed to take over her lease. We had been working out of the UT Ag Extension office, so we were properly licensed to sell. Technically, you aren’t allowed to sell products like this out of your home. This was just supposed to be a weekend part-time thing.”
As the business continued to grow, Lacey’s daughter Amanda Bumpus was asked to come aboard. She said to her mom, ‘if you’re not going to do this 100% then you shouldn’t do it at all’.
“That’s when I turned in my two-week notice at Hendrickson,” Lacey said. “They said, ‘we knew this was coming’. They have backed me 1,000 percent. I miss all my friends, terribly, but I love what I do now. We opened and never looked back. It started with me and Amanda’s mother-in-law. Jim was coming by in the mornings on his way to work, and then coming back to help more in the afternoons.”
Amanda came on full-time almost three years ago. Jim left his job and retired into working in the family business every day.
“It’s very much a family business,” Lacey said. “Last year we hired our grandsons to work with us part-time, during the summer.”
Lacey says that there was much discussion in the beginning. Luckily, they were in a good financial position to take the chance.
“I said, how many do we need to sell every day to be okay?” Lacey said, “Jim said, fifty a day would work, (referring to the individual-size cheesecakes). When we first started it was just insane, how many we were selling. There was an immediate response, we were never slow. We almost never have slow days. Jim’s ’50’ number was a joke.”
The week before Lacey sat down for this interview, the shop sold 900 of the little ones. The big ones are all done special order, and she says the ovens are full every day. Numbers fluctuate during the holidays, and day by day.
“There isn’t really any rhyme or reason,” Lacey said. “It’s cheesecake. “We used to do more in the Fall and Winter than we did in the Summer, but this summer has been just booming. During Covid our customers protected us. They might have been worried that we might close. We shut down for a week at the beginning, then reopened and just did curbside service. They wore us out. We were so busy we almost couldn’t keep up.”
That led to 2020 being B’s best sales year yet. Lacey says she knows how blessed they are.
“I think we were a comfort food,” Lacey said. Many of our customers were buying and donating our cheesecakes to the hospital, and doctor’s offices. They would buy in bulk. We were protective of our customers, too. We didn’t let anyone in. We removed our seating, so we’re a grab-and-go place now, which has worked really well for us.”
Lacey says 2021 is on track to be an even better year. “We have over 300 different flavors,” she said. “People make flavor suggestions all the time. We have a great cheesecake base, so we can play with lots of different ideas. We buy things on sale, fruits in season, any kind of like Oreo flavors. We play with alcohol, and Beachaven wines all the time. There are just so many possibilities.”
B’s top sellers are Beachaven Blackberry, Caramel Pecan Praline, New York, Triple Chocolate, and Strawberry Swirl.
“Those always sell well,” Lacey said. “A cool specialty draws in lots of people. During the holidays we might sell fifteen cakes a day, but we only have two regular kitchen ovens, and one double oven. We don’t have any commercial equipment.
“If we’re making a cheesecake, it bakes for about 2-1/2 hours, so we need 24 -48 hours for the entire process of making, baking, and chilling overnight. If our ovens aren’t full we can probably get one together for the next day. It has to come to room temperature first, and then go into the refrigerator. The little ones are made in special pans that I have to order from overseas. That process takes about 25 minutes. When one set comes out of the oven, another set goes in. Jim does the batter, slides it over to me. I tell everybody I do the magic.”
Lacey has a box of recipes but says a lot of it’s still in her head. Her family is now making her write them down and organize them.
The full-size cakes are 3 – 4 inches tall and 10 inches across. They range in price from $40.00 – $65.00 and will make (in my experience) sixteen generous servings.
“I still love it,” Lacey said. “Every day when I unlock that door I think about how much I love it. We appreciate our customers continuing to love what we do. We do this for them. And, we have people coming from everywhere, not just Clarksville. It’s amazing where they come from. People are driving from the other side of Nashville just to pick up a cheesecake.
“It’s really funny. On Google maps, if you look up Fortera, it says they are near B’s Cheesecakes. We’re a landmark. I thought that was really cool.”
B’s is also using the M Mobile. They’ve had it in operation for more than a year. “We don’t take it out as much as we could,” Lacey said. “Jim is the one who runs it, and when we lose him here we’re down a person. When we do take it out we sell out. We do frozen cheesecake on a stick. We offer a couple of regular flavors and a couple of specialty flavors.
“In the Fall, customers want the pumpkins flavors, then Winter and Christmas flavors. In the Spring, they want lemon and fruit flavors. It’s always fun, always changing. Of Course, working with family is just like you think, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Jim and I just try not to kill each other, every day. We both make it home every day, and we keep coming back the next day,” Lacey Laughed.
B’s Cheesecakes is located at 305 North Riverside Drive in Clarksville Tennessee.
B’s Cheesecakes is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00am–6:00pm. Hours may be adjusted for the Winter months.