For years, cheesecake lovers from Winston-Salem have come back from visits to Greensboro raving about Alex Amoroso’s cheesecakes. Now, they don’t have to drive nearly as far.
Cheesecakes by Alex opened Thursday, Aug. 27, at 625 N. Trade St. in the Downtown Arts District in Winston-Salem.
Amoroso, 54, and his wife, Vera, started Cheesecakes by Alex at 315 S. Elm St. in Greensboro back in 2002 after Amoroso made a cheesecake for his mother-in-law.
“All during the process, I had a taste in mind for the way this cake should turn out — I couldn’t wait to taste it. When I did, however, I was truly disappointed in both the taste and the texture,” Amoroso wrote on his company’s website.
Determined to do better, Amoroso took a deep dive into the world of cream cheese and baking, spending months to perfect his cheesecake recipe.
Once he did, he tried it out at a farmers market and United Way bake sale and got such positive feedback that he immediately started looking for a bakery space. He settled on a small spot in the middle of downtown Greensboro. “I had a little portable stove, my Kitchen Aid mixer and one oven that could hold nine cakes at a time,” he said.
After three months of customers banging on his window while he was baking, he opened as a retail shop, adding coffee and such other items as muffins. His menu has gradually expanded ever since — mostly on customer demand.
He eventually rented the adjoining space, increasing the size of his shop from about 1,200 to 3,300 square feet.
He now sells 24 flavors of cheesecake, including sugar-free and gluten-free varieties, as well as layer cakes, muffins, scones, brownies, cookies, biscotti and more. He also carries a full line of espresso drinks.
Whole cheesecakes sell for $32 to $38 for large, $16 to $20 for medium, or $10 for $14 for small. Slices sell for $4.45 to $4.85.
He makes 300 to 400 cheesecakes a day and sells them wholesale as far away as Southport and Charlotte.
The Winston-Salem shop will have the same menu as Greensboro's.
The cheesecakes will be baked in Greensboro, but the other baked goods will be baked on site on Trade Street.
“And this location will be used for the start of our wedding-cake program,” Amoroso said, adding that his head baker in Winston-Salem also may start making French macarons.
Amoroso has declined to allow indoor seating in Greensboro during the coronavirus pandemic, and the Winston-Salem store also will offer only takeout for the time being. “We just stayed at Phase One because I was concerned for the safety of my customers and my employees,” Amoroso said. “And since most of our business has always been takeout anyway, it didn’t make sense to go to Phase Two.”
The 3,300-square-foot Winston-Salem store has plenty of room for tables once Amoroso decides to allow indoor seating. He also has room to eventually add some outdoor tables in front, and he is building a small courtyard in back. “That was just dirt when we got here, but we’re going to put in some trees, and it will be a nice little hideaway,” he said of the courtyard area.
Amoroso said he has wanted to open in Winston-Salem for years.
“My wife and I always liked Winston-Salem. We liked the Arts District,” he said. “We started looking at Winston just a few years after we started. “
But by the time they got down to a serious search for a site in Winston-Salem, the recession hit, and the idea of expanding got put on the back burner for 10 years.
That didn’t keep Winston-Salem residents from enjoying his cheesecakes. Many would make the drive to Greensboro just for a slice of key lime, white chocolate raspberry or turtle brownie chocolate.
But now they can get a taste right in their own downtown.
“We had so many people coming from Winston to Greensboro,” Amoroso said, “we knew we had to come here.”