Eli's Cheesecake of Chicago to break ground for a 42,000 sq. ft. expansion, almost doubling the size of its current bakery on Tuesday, July 26th, 2022
Eli’s Cheesecake is constructing a 42,000 sq. foot addition to the west and south side of its existing facility, located on the northwest side of Chicago. This will allow for the expansion of bakery operations, including the addition of production and packaging lines, warehousing and welfare areas. After completion, Eli’s facility will be 104,000 sq. ft. including Eli’s Corporate Offices and the Eli’s Cheesecake Bakery Café, which is open to the public. “Eli's Cheesecake is known for having the best cheesecake in town for good reason,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “This expansion will allow them to enhance that well-earned reputation by giving them the capacity to put out even more delicious treats and create new ones in the future. I'm excited to see Eli's Cheesecake continue to grow their business and know this new space will provide them with many new and lucrative opportunities once completed.”
The project will meet Sustainable Initiatives set by the City of Chicago by exceeding the Energy code and providing Landscape methods to achieve 60% Native or adapted species and provide a diversity of plant types including flowering plants and grasses.
The budget is $9.5 million and construction is being financed by Huntington National Bank and Eli’s. At the time of project completion, the SBA 504 program will refinance up to $5.5 million through Somercor 504 Inc.
The expansion team includes Architect Michael Aragona of Aragona Architects (who was the architect for Eli's first Bakery in 1996), Summit Design as general contractor and Joel Friedland of Brit Properties as the owner representative.
As part of this project, Eli’s has committed to increasing its employment from 225 to 300 with 65 construction jobs from the project. Eli’s has entered into a 6(b) tax incentive agreement with the City of Chicago for the new addition.
Eli’s expansion has been made possible with an EDGE Tax Credit Agreement with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) for the State of Illinois that gives Eli’s incentive for creating jobs. Eli’s is also a participant in a Job Training and Economic Development (JTED) Grant by DCEO with Wright College to create opportunities for students with disabilities from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences and Vaughn Occupational High School to work at Eli’s and in the food industry.
“We attribute our long term success to following my father's words of wisdom “Charity will never bust you” and “Treat others as if you were the other,” said Marc Schulman, Eli's President.
Toward that end, Eli’s is proud of its partnership with Refugee One. One of many examples of its success is Elias Kasongo, who came to Eli’s from the Congo over 28 years, starting in the dish room, and is now Vice President of Procurement. Eli's has hired refugees from Congo, Kosovo, Syrian, Iraq, Ruanda, Burma and Tibet and over the last 6 months, has hired over 50 Afghan refugees.
According to Lt. Governor Julian Stratton, “It is an honor to join the Northwest Side community to commemorate the groundbreaking for Eli's Cheesecake. The rich legacy that has been fostered for 42 years, uplifting the local community through various programs to promote education and economic development, is a testament to how our food systems can be an outlet to unite and grow together.”
Eli’s has always been committed to the education of its workforce. “Eli’s U,” an onsite GED program administered by Wright College received a visit in 1992 from then Governor Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. Eli's and Wright have continued working together through the years and are currently co-hosting the annual summer entrepreneurship program for Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences students, as well as offering new classes this Fall. Independently, Eli's offers awards scholarships annually for CHSAS graduating seniors.
“Eli’s ingenuity led to the Chicago-style cheesecake four decades ago and today leads to the company’s decision to double down on Illinois,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I’m pleased to welcome this manufacturing expansion and offer my gratitude to Eli’s for their continued community investment and support.”
In 1980, Eli Schulman declared cheesecake to be the signature dessert at his legendary Chicago steakhouse, Eli's The Place For Steak. It was there that he dreamed up a new way to make cheesecake: His unconventional fast and hot baking method resulted in the creation of “Chicago style” cheesecake: a beautiful caramelization on the outside and a creamy consistency on the inside, baked on a shortbread cookie crust. The cheesecake made its public debut at the first Taste of Chicago, July 4, 1980. What began in his restaurant's kitchen has grown into one of the country's largest cheesecake and dessert bakeries. Eli's, frequently referred to as a Chicago food icon, has become a symbol of the City, creating giant celebratory cheesecakes for many of Chicago's big moments, such as Illinois' Bicentennial, Taste of Chicago's Birthdays, City of Chicago Birthdays, Hamilton the Musical, White Sox World Series, Second City 50 Years of Funny and the inaugurations of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, President Barack Obama (both) and President Bill Clinton (both), to name a few. A third generation family owned business, all Eli's desserts are handmade and decorated in Chicago!