By Michael Kinney
The town of Bethany is just 5.2 square miles. With basically just a couple of main streets, it’s pretty easy to see the entire Oklahoma City suburb in a just few minutes.
However, for those who choose to speed through the 112-year-old community, it’s very easy to miss one of the hottest eateries in the Oklahoma City area. Situated between a barbershop and a Pho restaurant is Not Cho Cheesecake, a trendy dessert haven for those who love all manner of cheesecakes.
“This is my cheesecake. It’s not yours,” said co-owner Shoshianna Moore. “So it’s a Not Cho Cheesecake.”
Less than two years ago, not only was the concept of Not Cho Cheesecake not thought of, but Moore had never made cheesecake in her life. Despite having years of cooking experience under her belt, the 32-year-old Dallas native had never even attempted to make the iconic Greek dessert that has been around since at least 230 A.D.
But after taking a trip to Memphis in July 2019, the oilfield worker came across the Cheesecake Corner, a black-owned restaurant that specialized in cheesecake. She loved the experience, and it stayed in the back of her head the rest of the trip.
But when Moore returned home, she found out that she and hundreds of other oilfield workers had been laid off.
Moore had some decisions to make. The army veteran could wait around and hopefully get her job back when the oil prices went back up or go work for someone else doing something she didn’t particularly enjoy.
Moore chose option three, which was to go into business for herself. Moore had always had an entrepreneurial spirit. She figured that since she was out of work, it was time to return to her calling.
“I can say, me being a military vet, I already had businesses,” Moore said. “So, me starting up another business was pretty easy. I just had to figure out how I wanted to do it. And I just had the drive. I was like, ‘I’m not going to just sit at home.’ I was already doing other stuff anyway. I’m a disabled case, so I really don’t have to work, but I didn’t want to sit at home and just not do anything.”
The idea Moore kept coming back to was how much she enjoyed the Cheesecake Corner. Even though she knew nothing about the dessert, she decided it would be her new venture.
“I went on Pinterest. I found a recipe that I liked, and I completely changed the recipe,” Moore said. “But yeah, that’s pretty much what happened was, I was like, I got laid off, and I already had this idea in my head from being in Memphis. And I came with it then.”
By August 2019 Moore and her fiancé and partner, Glen Whittaker, were selling the first cheesecakes from home and through the mail.
The business quickly grew, and the duo decided they needed to get serious and open up their own restaurant.
“So it really started where people really started to notice us in September, when I opened my Facebook page, because Facebook is the best marketing ever,” Moore said. “And instantly, I just felt like I don’t want to do this at the house. I didn’t want a food truck. I wanted a brick and mortar.”
After looking at different locations and being turned away for one reason or another, Moore and Whittaker took control of the space in Bethany in November 2019. After a couple of delays, they were all set to open their doors to the public in March 2020.
The timing was unfortunate, as the coronavirus had just burst onto the scene throughout the nation. That forced Moore and Whittaker to push back the opening for a few months, but their online orders enabled them to still bring in money.
Once Not Cho Cheesecake set sail in June 2020, and it was right in the middle of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Small businesses across the country were shutting down permanently because people weren’t going out and spending money on non-essential items.
The situation was even dire for black-owned businesses. An H&R Block survey found that 53 percent of black business owners saw their revenue drop by half since the pandemic started. Another survey released in January by Small Business Majority found that almost one in five Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs were expected to permanently shut down inside of three months.
Yet, according to Whittaker, Not Cho Cheesecake defied the odds and expectations to become an instant hit.
“I can’t lie and say that I’m not surprised. I expected some type of response, but I didn’t expect the type of response that we got, especially on grand opening day,” Whittaker said. “I mean, there was a line here that stretched. I was thinking, ‘Well, we’re new. We’re just opening up, so people are just curious.’ But no, that continued on for months. Every day, just a big line. So yeah, we were both taken away by the response that we got.”
According to Moore, what makes Not Cho Cheesecake different from other shops is that everyone of their 28 flavors of cheesecake are made in-house with what she calls “special ingredients.”
“It’s homemade. If you go to local restaurants that have cheesecake, it’s shipped in to them. So our cheesecake’s homemade,” Moore said.
Along with the classic Strawberry Cheesecake, the list of flavors includes names such as Breakfast In Bed, Cookies & Cream Greatness, Not Yo Mama Banana Pudding, Yin to My Yang and Tennessee Whiskey.
Whittaker said his favorite is the Big Mama, which is peach cobbler cheesecake topped with whip cream and a peach, cinnamon sauce.
Even though Not Cho Cheesecake has been open for less than a year, Moore and Whittaker are already making plans to move to a bigger location. They want to make the eatery into more of a café where more than two customers can sit down and enjoy their food.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
“We already have about four or five people in different states that have already reached out to us about franchising,” Moore said. “We are trying to get our processes down now. I really just want to be a household name. I want to pop up everywhere.”
Moore said there is nothing in their backgrounds that showed they could make this happen, which to her, is the most satisfying part about creating Not Cho Cheesecake.
“For me, I feel like I did something right. I grew up in poverty. It was horrible the way I grew up. And my fiancé didn’t grow up in the best circumstances,” Moore said. “So for me, making this idea become a reality, it’s amazing. For the black community, I think it will inspire others. I feel like nothing is out of our reach. For both of us, it is showing that whatever you want to do, it can be done.”
Just over a month after sitting down and interviewing for this story, Moore passed away due to complications with liver failure in November of 2020. Whittaker has kept the Not Cho Cheesecake open and going strong. I still wanted to make sure and get Moore’s story out in her words, despite her untimely passing.
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Michael Kinney Media