[Updated 5/1/15: 7ate9 is hosting a soft opening this weekend with limited supplies.]
Somerville is home to some of the best donuts and ice cream shops in the area and the sweets scene is set to expand with the soon-to-be-open 7ate9 Bakery. Frequent shoppers at Somerville’s farmers markets will likely recognize the tiny, tasty cheesecakes that are 7ate9’s staple product when the bakery opens at its new location at 199C Highland Ave.
Sarah Chester, the woman behind the cheesecakes, hopes to open the shop sometime next month once all of the permitting and construction is complete.
“I spent a year looking for a space,” Chester said. “I’m really excited about it. It’s the perfect location.”
After selling 7ate9’s sweets at local farmers markets for a few years, Chester knew that when the time came to open a brick-and-mortar location she would focus her search in Somerville and Cambridge.
“Somerville is so loyal to their local economy,” Chester said. “I wanted to be in a place that really embraces that. I think Somerville chose us. They’ve been really loyal customers. I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”
While Chester may be happy she ended up here, the path to owning her own bakery wasn’t always an obvious one. She was working as an accountant in downtown Boston when she began baking cheesecakes for fun, often bringing them into the office to share.
“I didn’t consider myself a baker back then, but I studied the science of baking,” Chester said. “People started asking to buy them. It became insane. I was baking until an ungodly hour.”
Chester always knew she wanted to own her own business and had been using her career to build skills she’d need as an entrepreneur.
“I knew I wanted to make the leap before I made the leap,” Chester said of her decision to leave her full-time job to start 7ate9. And while she’d like to take credit for the name, it was a friend who thought of combining Chester’s love of numbers with her newfound career as a baker.
But finding a space to make 7ate9’s cheesecakes proved challenging. Few commissary kitchens existed at the time and with many charging hourly, that wasn’t feasible for baking something that was a multi-day process.
“I went around to different bakeries, brought them a cheesecake and asked to speak with the owner,” Chester said. “Forty-eight cakes later, one said yes.” She’s been baking her cheesecakes out of La Pastisserie’s kitchen in Winchester ever since.
At first 7ate9 was primarily selling cheesecakes through deliveries, but that proved to be an unsustainable business model. Chester then brought her cheesecakes to local farmers market, which turned out to be perfect for the business.
“They’re the perfect customers,” Chester said of farmers market shoppers. “They care about the food and you. It’s been great.”
After adding more and more markets to 7ate9’s schedule in addition to taking orders for catering, Chester knew it was time to find her own space.
“It’s exciting and terrifying,” Chester said. “Things keep moving forward.”
When 7ate9 opens in Somerville, customers can expect to find cheesecakes large and small in a variety of flavors as well as some additional desserts and coffee. But 7ate9 won’t be a neighborhood bakery. Chester plans to keep focusing on her niche product that customers have come to know and love.
“We do one thing and do it really well,” Chester said. “Ninety-five percent of sales are the mini-cheesecakes.”
The cheesecakes come in two other sizes that feed larger groups and a variety of flavors ranging from classic and fruit-topped to peanut butter cup and peppermint. 7ate9 works with other local businesses, like farms in the summer and Taza Chocolate year-round, to include their products in the desserts.
And while it may seem like Chester would tire of tasting cheesecakes, she said she never does. Watching others try her cheesecakes for the first time is also her favorite part of owning 7ate9.
“There’s a moment at the farmers market where people will take a sample and put it in their mouth,” Chester said. “I give them a moment to process and then their eyebrows go up. It’s the most rewarding thing ever.”
P.S. Do you love cheesecake as much as Chester? You’re in luck because 7ate9 is hiring!
Images courtesy of 7ate9 Bakery.