Junior’s has come a long way since its inception, making millions of cheesecakes each year and impressively increasing production through a full-scale bakery operation and growing from mere restaurant to brand. The company today sells 19 different types of cheesecakes, from the original cheesecake to modern innovations like pumpkin cheesecake.
When asked the question of where you can find the best cheesecake in town, every New Yorker is likely to give you the same answer: Junior’s. The brand is tied to the New York City staple in a way that no other brand in the city or country is today. Junior’s is the archetypal story of a restaurant that becomes a cultural landmark in its hometown by virtue of its excellent food. With a rich legacy that spans seven decades, Junior’s makes one of the best slices of pie in town that stays true to the age-old recipe that started it all. Junior’s started at the corner of Flatbush Ave Ext as a small business and now produces over 10,000 pies a day.
Junior’s was founded in 1950 by New York native Harry Rosen. Prior to Junior’s, Harry owned a chain of sandwich shops, the first of which was located in the same space where Junior’s flagship outlet stands today. Harry would go on to expand the original store, building his Enduro brand into a full-fledged nightclub over the years. The establishment’s footfall would gradually diminish as business fell and the chain soon closed its doors, leaving Rosen in considerable debt. As he does not give up easily, he remained steadfast in his quest to open another restaurant on the famous corner.
In 1950, he opened Junior’s and named it after his two sons Walter and Marvin. Junior’s was a family-owned restaurant that was modern in every way: from the bright neon signs and shiny wood countertops to the many naugahyde leather booths that restaurant patrons sat in, the store was simply stunning to look at. The food didn’t disappoint either, serving up classic New York dishes. The restaurant was immensely successful from the day it opened its doors. There was one item on the menu that stood out from everything else: the cheesecake. Junior’s cheesecake came to life during the 1960s when Rosen, a fierce competitor by nature, decided that he wanted to create the best cheesecake in New York.
He hired Danish-born baker Eigel Peterson to run the restaurant’s bakery. The two set to work perfecting a cheesecake recipe, seeing a lot of trial and error before settling on a recipe they deemed perfect. The recipe featured a vanilla pie bottom instead of the graham cracker crust most local bakeries used at the time. His intuition turned out to be correct when news of Junior’s delicious cheesecake spread like wildfire. The public and New York City elites made their way to the restaurant to get in on the action.
Junior’s was soon frequented by many of the city’s famous politicians, actors, athletes, and authors. The restaurant would go on to see several big deals negotiated and big decisions made over a slice of its famous pie, a tradition that is still upheld today. Rosen oversaw the restaurant until his death in 1996, after which the mantle passed to his sons Walter and Marvin. The restaurant is now owned by Walter’s sons, Kevin and Alan.
Junior’s has come a long way since its inception, making millions of cheesecakes each year and dramatically increasing production through a full-scale bakery operation in neighboring New Jersey town, growing from a mere restaurant to a brand. The company today sells 19 different types of cheesecakes, from the original cheesecake to modern innovations like pumpkin cheesecake.
Junior’s has been no stranger to adversity, from business-hitting inflation (inflation had caused cheesecake to cost twice as much) to supply chain issues during the pandemic. Covid-19 was hard on all hospitality businesses. Junior’s is one of the largest consumers of cream cheese in the country, and had no choice but to temporarily halt production following the huge cream cheese shortage of 2021. Schreiber Foods, one of the largest manufacturers of cream cheese in the US. The US was affected by a cyberattack just before the Christmas season, forcing it to temporarily halt its operations. That led to Kraft (makers of Philadelphia cream cheese), Junior’s supplier of cream cheese, facing huge lawsuits while they themselves faced ingredient and packaging shortages. A few months of skilful management were necessary to normalize the situation. Junior’s was forced to suspend operations until supply was resumed, inevitably creating a huge financial burden.
The owners tried a number of methods to deal with this Gordian knot: from automating traditional processes to expanding the supermarket menu and offering the rounds in different sizes. Fortunes eventually turned, as this led to a doubling of sales, with retail and supermarket sales accounting for about half of Junior’s revenue. Despite the vicissitudes, Junior’s refused to change its recipe to lower costs and he stayed true to his heritage, a move approved by his legion of loyal patrons.