Three years after fire burned down its building – and COVID closed it – Cherry Hill bakery prepares for re-opening

Barry Kratchman puts it simply: There was no sadder moment for him than March 2020, when a strip mall inferno charred every square foot of his family-owned Cherry Hill bakery. It was a mere few days before COVID-19’s local introduction added more fuel to the fire.

There’s also no happier moment for him than being able to announce that within two months, the business, Classic Cake, will be reopening in Cherry Hill. Three years after a blaze destroyed the decades-old Classic Cake store in the Short Hills Plaza, the business announced it would be opening in another Cherry Hill strip mall in May.

Kratchman, who operates the business alongside his sister and others, had been operating their bakery out of another family-run food business, the Short Hills Restaurant & Deli before it closed last year.

The cream cheese caper

Cyber criminals have gone after banks, businesses and crucial energy infrastructure.

And here’s the icing on the cake: They’ve even gone after cream cheese manufacturers.

Right before the winter holiday season in 2021, hackers targeted Schreiber Foods. That cyberattack shut down all of the leading cheese manufacturer’s dairy processing operations.

“So, there was this massive shortage of cream cheese,” Barry Kratchman of Classic Cake, said. “We’re actually one of the larger users of that in the region. There were a lot of small bakers who simply couldn’t get it at all. That caused some panic. And, for us, lead times were pushed up to sometimes eight weeks or more.”

Combined with other supply chain interruptions and reported labor shortages during the past two years, Classic Cake raised prices on its baked goods. Kratchman said although it was necessary due to the lack of availability of certain key ingredients, the business had to ensure customers could stomach the costs.

“To a limit, I do believe people accepted the higher prices,” he said. “Our customer base is very loyal to us. And, overall, our customers understood the challenges and supported Classic Cake. So, we didn’t see a drop off of demand as we slowly increased prices to avoid sticker shock in the retail environment. Plus, there’s only so much you can charge for a cheesecake in a national supermarket chain.”

“The retail store was really a smaller component of what we do as a national manufacturer for supermarket chains,” he said. “It’s to interface with the community, be part of it and participate in charities. But even as a diversified company, having that physical location was important to us.”

Sympathies had poured in from the surrounding community after the original location’s destruction, Kratchman said.

Barry Kratchman.

“Watching the business burn down was truly difficult; but as time progresses, you do get over it,” he added. “Thankfully, we were compensated for our loss, and we were able to rebuild better than before.”

And Kratchman did find one silver lining.

“It allowed us to take a fresh, clean perspective on the retail environment and how we would like to showcase our product,” he said.

As the bakery’s leaders planned to reemerge with a brick-and-mortar location, they did a lot of thinking about how they might position themselves differently than what’s currently out there, Kratchman said.

“We wanted to take the reputation of Classic Cake, the talent we have, and showcase it,” he said. “Within the store we’re going to have a section we refer to as ‘the studio.’ Customers and guests can watch the cakes, including these showpieces, being made right on the premises.”

In the meantime, despite being focused on the national manufacturing business, Kratchman has remained available to the South Jersey community by doing cake pickups at his residence.

“Even as we’ve been growing away from the brick-and-mortar retail side, we’re still committed to the store,” he said. “We’re proud of it. And we’re looking to be around for many years to come.”