Recently, the Hunterdon County’s Board of Commissioners presented Maddalena’s CheeseCake & Catering a proclamation commemorating its 40th year in business.
Opened by Gene Maddalena and his wife Janet Maddalena on April 7, 1982, the family-owned bakery in the Ringoes section of East Amwell Township sells over a dozen different varieties of homemade cheesecakes using a recipe unchanged through the years.
“In 1982 my husband Gene convinced me to start a little catering company and we decided to add a product, cheesecake, as a secondary source of income,” Janet Maddalena told NJ Advance Media. “We never expected cheesecake to become the anchor to our business. Today that cheesecake is considered one of the very best in all of New Jersey.”
After Gene passed away in October of 2009, Janet Maddalena decided to carry on the family business, which now includes her sons, Gene, Jr. and Jeff.
Today, the company’s cheesecakes are sold in supermarkets, bakeries and restaurants, as well as from the storefront at 415 Route 31 north in the Ringoes section of East Amwell Township. They also make apple crumb pies, chookies, cheesecake-on-a-stick, gluten-free cheesecake and keto-friendly vanilla Keto cheesecake.
“Our plain vanilla cheesecake remains the most popular cheesecake flavor; black forest is the second best seller,” Janet Maddalena said, “However, our third best selling cheesecake is pumpkin, which is a big deal because that is a seasonal flavor and is only baked from September to December, and still it outsells all other year round flavors.”
Maddalena’s bookkeeper, Gina Wood, helped throw a surprise 40th anniversary party in April at the bakery.
“Janet is a dedicated, hard-working, and fabulous boss,” Wood said. “We are a family at Maddalena’s”. Many of Janet’s employees have been with her for years. Matt Miller, our bakery manager, Scott Bevis, our chef, Nina Lane, our wholesale coordinator, and Janet’s sons, Gene and Jeff Maddalena, are a few of Janet’s dedicated team.”
Janet Maddalena said it was a wonderful day. “My awesome dedicated staff surprised me by gathering my friends and family to celebrate with us at a party,” she said. “I would never have been able to get through the last few years without these talented and very hardworking people.”
Janet Maddalena said sales were impacted during the coronavirus pandemic as few restaurants ordered their cheesecakes, and sales to supermarkets dropped by 20%.
“When the ban on public gathering was enforced, all off-site catering events were canceled,” she added. “Our mobile desserts calendar was packed. We were looking forward to a very robust food truck season. We’d scheduled quite a few double weekends (where) we planned to be all over New Jersey selling cheesecake on a stick.”
Janet Maddalena said they brainstormed new ways to generate revenue during this time, as customers could not come into their storefront.
“We had expanded our little store to include savory oven-ready meals in 2018,” she said. “I knew that it was our solution. We needed to focus on these items and spread the word. I stood in the store looking at the frozen cases of prepared meals and desserts and knew I had to create an online ordering system.
“We offered only curbside service from March until the Fourth of July (of 2020. We put everything we could into marketing the store.”)
Janet Maddalena said one part of the business that continues to grow is the Cheesecake Fundraiser Program.
“Organizations like athletic teams, church groups, dance teams, senior centers have been reaching out to us for 30 years, asking to do cheesecake fundraisers for their groups,” she said. “We were happy to oblige, but didn’t pursue this until 2016 when Gina Wood … expressed an interest the cheesecake fundraisers.”
Said Wood, who is also the company’s fundraiser coordinator, “Our once little fundraising program, set up to help non-profits reach their fundraising needs, has grown in leaps and bounds over the last five years.”
Janet Maddalena added, “Word of mouth is powerful has proven to help us grow our customer base.
“New customers are finding us and asking to book dates for their own sales. We created the steps for success on the fundraising page of our intended website as a tool to share many of the lessons we have learned. It includes tips for best practices and warnings about what to avoid when coordinating these events.”
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Vashti Harris may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.