Showcase Finale: Junior’s Restaurant and Cheesecake: A legacy Preserved

Posted on February 16, 2012

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New employee Robin has her hand full as she place pastries in the display for the breakfast rush.

For over 50 years Junior’s restaurant and cheesecake has brought smiles to the faces of many Brooklynites and New Yorkers. The family owned business has served more than three generations, but with the economic crisis and new found health consciousness of Americans how will this longtime favorite for sweet delectable’s preserve its legacy.  I will research how  the restaurant was founded,  the love and fascination among New Yorkers with this quintessential cheesecake, and what is next for America’s favorite cheesecake. For six decades, Junior’s has made it mark in the restaurant business of America, being one of the 12 top items sold on QVC’s Home shopping network the Rosen family has seemed to always exceed expectations.(click here to order off QVC)

As the Super Bowl approaches, Junior's shows support to NY Giants with a signature NY Giants Cheesecake

Since the 1950’s Junior’s Restaurant has became a phenomenon. Surviving a fire that nearly burnt the restaurant down, developing new strategies to reach customers in all parts of the United States, and being consistent in their secret recipe is what makes the 60 year old establishment one of New York’s places to visit.  The most famous cheesecake in America took time to develop, According to an interview conducted by the New York Times. Before Junior’s owner, Harry Rosen had five Enduro sandwich shops; 4 in Manhattan and 1 in Brooklyn. In the 1930’s Mr. Rosen sold his Manhattan branches to focus on the Brooklyn Enduro. “It was a large bar with entertainment and a steakhouse,” Marvin Rosen recalled. But after World War II, he said, his father decided he had to change with the times. He closed the Enduro, and after a year of renovation, Junior’s was born. Mr. Rosen ran Junior’s with his two sons, Marvin and Walter, a family arrangement that inspired the restaurant’s name. ”Working with him was not a picnic,” Marvin Rosen said. ”He was a tough, demanding man. He was a perfectionist” (NYTimes ’96).(click here to read more about Harry Rosen and death @92)

From the beginning Harry Rosen set the tone for Junior’s Restaurant. As the times changed, so did the establishment.  Mr. Rosen’s consistency of renovations and updates gave the restaurant the in-the-now feel every decade since opening on Flatbush Avenue Extension and Dekalb Avenue in 1950.  In 1983 the restaurant was modernized after a major fire, “I was one of the firemen who put out the fire,” George Gordilli states. “We went up on the top of the roof put the fire out and then we entered the kitchen where all the burnt cheesecake was and me and my fleet of men sat right there on the counters and shoved down as many cheesecakes as we could.” He said joyfully. The very same decade, the restaurant introduced to the world, mail-order cheesecakes. These cheesecakes are frozen and placed in a Styrofoam container that would hold the cake steady while it was shipped, two days after order placement.  Now that the third generations of Rosen brothers have taken over the family business, the restaurant  is continuing to pursue Harry Rosen platform of “changing with the times.”( Click Here to visit Junior’s website)

Owner Alan Rosen smiles for the camera as he carries strawberry cheesecake from the kitchen to the bakery

During this last decade, America has been undergoing a health an economic concerns. Juniors still prevailed. Changing the menu to more healthy choices such as soups salads, deli sandwiches and a low-carb cheesecake, Juniors; once a burger and fries  fast food restaurant;  is adapting to these health concerns of America pretty well. “We strive for customer satisfaction,” said manager Collette at the Brooklyn location.” Expanding the business and appealing to various crowds is the way to maintain in the food industry. As long as we keep evolving… we will be around for years to come,” she explained. And evolving is what they have done, with three new locations; one in Grand central train station, another in the heart of the theatre district  of Times Square and the very first locations outside of New York at the MGM Foxwoods casino in Mashantucket Ct.,(click here for locations) the third generation of Rosen brothers Alan and Kevin have managed to keep the establishment afloat despite the recent economic turmoil. The brothers fought back against the economic crisis by developing smaller portions during lunch hours 11a.m.-4p.m., “I’ve been coming to juniors since I was a litter girl,” Betty Hartley; 48 years old of Brooklyn says. Betty claims to visit the restaurant every Friday during lunch, “Since inflation has taken over some much of the world’s economy it is nice for the Rosens to offer a meal at a discounted rate, beside a girl’s got to have her cheesecake” she said candidly.

Junior’s Restaurant and cheesecake has changed many lives over the decades, as long as the company continues to change with the times; it will continue to do so. In fact it’s as true today as it was over 50 years ago when they started: you haven’t really lived …until you’ve had a meal and cheesecake from Junior’s. ( click here to see inside of Junior’s)

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