Anne Lev, founder and owner of Dafna’s Cheesecake Factory in Liverpool took the time to give us the low down.
Dafna’s Cheesecake Factory on Liverpool’s Smithdown Road is a stalwart of its local high street, having opened its doors in 1977. The secret to its long-term success? Just great products, friendly service and a real joy in offering something unique to the local community.
The idea for the business was first born in Chicago, USA, where Anne – visiting with her husband – tasted the perfect cheesecake. But thoughts of opening a high street store were still a long way off.
“That cheesecake in Chicago changed my life,” Anne said. “It tasted just like the original Sara Lee Cheesecake, which I feel had been ruined by mass production. But I had no idea at the time that it would end up keeping me busy at work for so long.”
Instead, Anne, having secured the recipe, returned to Liverpool and began to make cheesecakes for friends and family. Their response, particularly at her son’s Bar Mitzva where guests scoured the venue looking for second helpings, convinced Anne that her hobby could be a business in its own right.
Dafna’s Cheesecake Factory was the product of that inspiration, and opened its doors in 1977. It immediately offered locals something different – a unique set of products, all home baked, and the kind of friendly service that has kept people coming back for more, for 41 years and counting.
“I was nervous on that first day,” Anne said. “It was a big step, but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t try to make something lasting out of something I so enjoy doing.”
Almost immediately, the business took off – with local families taking the shop to their hearts before wider fame brought celebrity cake lovers to the door. Famous customers have included Bishop of Liverpool David Sheppard, Boys from the Blackstuff star Alan Bleasdale, and a host of celebrities from music and TV. Anne’s cakes have even starred in Peaky Blinders, which is filmed in nearby streets.
But, while notoriety might be good for business, it’s not what drives on Anne and her team of four bakers and two part time shop assistants. Like many ‘High Street Heroes’, what Anne loves the most is making people happy.
“That’s what I love the most,” she explained. “Meeting people, such wonderful customers. They are appreciative and that makes us happy. The customers are the centre piece to the whole business and we are proud of the service we provide, which makes customers keep coming back.
“Money seems less important somehow. If you’re this small then, you, the one who started the business can be there most the time. That’s important to people. I do feel as though I am giving the community just a little bit of pleasure, and that, more than anything is the secret to our longevity.”
Like any small business owner, Anne has had her fair share of heart stopping moments along the way, no more so than when a woman entered the shop with a gun, back in 1989.
“She told me to open the till and put the money in a plastic bag,” Anne recalled. “I said ‘don’t be silly. It’s too early, there’s no money in the till!’ I just turned the gun around and pushed her out of the shop.”
It’s an episode that speaks volumes about Anne’s commitment to her business and her no-nonsense attitude. Asked what advice she would give to anyone starting out today, she said: “Stick it out. If you believe in your business, have the tenacity to make it work.”
Now 83, Anne is in the process of handing over the day today running of the business to her trusted staff – people she knows will carry on the tradition for quality and service and, most importantly, the unique, quirky quality that has served the business so well.
“I’ll stay involved somehow!” she is quick to point out.
You can follow Dafna’s Cheesecake Factory in the following ways:
Facebook – @dafnascheesecakefactory