Alan Rosen Interview
(Junior's Most Fabulous Cheesecake)
On the corner of Flatbush and De Kalb Avenues in downtown Brooklyn, New
York stands Junior’s Restaurant, home to the Best Cheesecake in Brooklyn,
the U.S. and the world!!
For over 50 years now, Junior’s has played host to famous singers,
authors, movie stars, athletes, mayors, and Supreme Court Justices.
Alan Rosen is the owner of Junior’s.
You haven’t had cheesecake until you’ve had Junior’s
Q – Alan, how much cheesecake do you eat?
A – I want to say I taste cheesecake once to twice a week. That’s
my excuse. Notice I say taste. I get to taste. Then the calories don’t
count. I’m good for 2 forkfuls each time or 3 depending how many flavors
I’m tasting. Every time I do any kind of interviewing I taste it.
I do some quality control checks every week.
Q – Do you know who’s eating all this
A – America. It’s the most popular dessert in the world.
Q – Do you ever break it down further than
A – No. I don’t do demographic studies on how people are ordering.
I know it’s people who like good food: people who just like good,
wholesome comfort food. I don’t look into zip codes and all that nonsense.
That’s not my style. We’ve always made good products. People
have sought us out and taken advantage of that.
Q – Your recipe for cheesecakes is a closely
A – Correct.
Q – How many people are baking your cheesecakes
A – We have one gentleman who mixes the ingredients. There are other
people who help put it in the oven, move it around, take it out of the pan,
grease the pan, set up everything. But, one guy does all the mixing.
Q – Could this gentleman, or anybody for that
matter, walk off with the recipes?
A – They could. We’ve been doing this for 50 some odd years
and it hasn’t happened yet. Most guys retire here.
Q – How much competition do you have in New
A – There’s no one that I know of that’s a true New York
cheese co. Every mom and pop bakery like we are makes cheesecake, but, no
one claims to have the best cheesecake in New York.
Q – Because that’s your specialty.
A – Yeah. Everybody else does layer cakes. We do layer cakes also.
If you’re a whole sale baker wherever you are you have to sell cheesecake.
It’s a very popular item. But, I can’t make it for everybody
and I don’t really do any wholesale. So, there’s someone making
cheesecake out there but, it’s not a named co. that I can tell you.
Outside of this market, there are other cos. You’ve heard of the Cheesecake
Factory of course.
Q – Of course.
A – But, our cheesecake speaks for itself. I’d rather not speak
about the competition or lack there of.
Q – Why did your grandfather start this business?
A – I’ll give you the long and short of it. My grandfather
was a soda jerk on the Lower East Side as a child. His mother made him save
a nickel a week. By the time he was 19 he bought a half-interest in a soda
shop. He re-named it the Enduro. Him and his bother went to work in this
soda shop and built it up. By the time they were 25, they had 5 (soda shops).
They had one in Brooklyn where we are right now, in my restaurant, Junior’s
Restaurant and they had 4 in Manhattan. He went away on his honeymoon in
1929 and the stock market crashed. Because of that he was forced to sell
4 of the 5 restaurants. He sold all 4 in Manhattan and kept the one in Brooklyn.
He operated the Enduro from 1929 to 1949. In 1949 times changed. It was
time for a different restaurant here. The Enduro closed, re-opened on Election
Day in 1950. At that point my father Walter and his brother Marvin worked
side by side. They had a small restaurant here which has grown into a very
big restaurant. Part of his first plan in 1950 was if we’re gonna
be a great restaurant in New York we gotta have great cheesecake. Him and
his first baker would go around tasting, testing and buying other cheesecakes.
Back then every restaurant made great cheesecake pretty much. We started
making our own cheesecake. In 1973, New York Magazine did a blind taste
test, went around to different bakeries buying cheesecakes and voted our
cheesecake the Best in New York. And, our customers have been telling us
that ever since. Thankfully. Most restaurants don’t last 3 generations.
Most businesses don’t last 3 generations.
Q – What if Junior’s had not been recognized
as having the Best cheesecake, would that have mattered?
A – I don’t know. We were still a good restaurant. We still
sold a lot of cheesecake. Even guys who don’t win their competitions
have their fans. You know, everyone’s got their devoted customers
and we happen to have ours. We’re very fortunate.
Q – Why does Junior’s need a publicist?
A – We never had one. O.K.? We never had one ever. People used to
call up here wanting to write articles and we used to hang up on ‘em.
When I came to work for the business, I just wanted someone to handle that
stuff for me. You know what I’m saying? We’re busy with our
mail order business and our restaurants. We wanted someone to handle it.
It just helps us get through it. They don’t generate the leads. They
help us get the information to people like yourself. We don’t need
press-----no offense. We’ve got articles plastered all over the place.
We get hundreds of write-ups a year, but, most people call us directly.
I got a call the other day from a newspaper in Japan wanting to write about
New York cheesecake. I could spend my whole day fielding these calls. I’m
worried about running a restaurant.
Q – Your father would like to see Junior’s develop into a multi-billion
dollar operation. To make that happen you would almost have to franchise
Junior’s. Are you prepared to do that?
A – We would never franchise. We’re gonna open more restaurants,
but we’re gonna do it under our ownership.
Q – Where will you be opening these restaurants?
A – Right now, we’re gonna for one more in New York. That’s
what we’re looking at in the immediate future. We’re not going
to be a billion dollar co. ever, quite frankly. But, we’re a multi-million
dollar co. and we’re happy. Our products are still the same in Grand
Central Restaurant as they are here and that’s the goal. We’re
never gonna open up more than one restaurant every couple years.
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