Long lines have become the norm lately, forming outside grocery stores, Home Depots and Lowe’s, farmers markets, banks, fast-food chains, and more.
But the line outside the Cheesecake Lady, Vanessa Jackson’s Elkins Park bakery, is exceptional. Her decadent desserts became a pandemic-era siren song, with dozens of customers queuing up outside on weekend mornings. They wait in the heat and in the rain; this winter, more than likely they’ll wait in the cold.
It’s a sight you’d expect in Brooklyn, not this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it stretch of Township Line Road.
They come for the luscious 4-inch rounds, often flavored with inventive toppings and mix-ins like cinnamon roll, birthday cake, and sweet potato.
But Jackson’s warm and welcoming personality is part of the magnetism, too. Even as countless new customers stream into the store, three at a time, she’s able to spot longtime supporters in the crowd.
“I can tell who they are with their masks on because of their eyes,” she says.
Some of Jackson’s patrons have been buying from her since 1999, when she began selling cheesecake out of her car to fellow churchgoers at the encouragement of her favorite aunt, Maritta Taylor. She spent years delivering cakes to customers on her way back home from Bethel Deliverance in Cheltenham. Coworkers clamored for them. Her daughter Brittany would even take orders from friends at school.
After decades of working in development, Jackson opened the Cheesecake Lady in Jenkintown in 2014. It moved to a larger space in Elkins Park in 2018, after a two-year hiatus. Jackson’s loyal following rejoiced.
“Business is booming, and has been from the day we opened,” she says. “It still really is humbling and overwhelming to be wanted and to be loved and cared for so much by the community of buyers.”