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La Cheesecake’s founder bakes fancy cakes

“I always knew I wanted to be in business for myself,” said Julig. In 1986, at the young age of 19, Julig opened up La Cheesecake Bake Shop in College Point.

Having only worked at odd jobs, he borrowed money from his family,...

By Alexander Dworkowitz

Tommy Julig was determined.

“I always knew I wanted to be in business for myself,” said Julig.

In 1986, at the young age of 19, Julig opened up La Cheesecake Bake Shop in College Point. Having only worked at odd jobs, he borrowed money from his family, and he soon found himself baking away.

“I’m glad I started young,” said Julig. “If I were to start now, forget it.”

Since then La Cheesecake has moved to its current, larger location at 126-06 14th Ave. and now offers pies, wedding cakes, brownies and numerous other baked goods.

Julig’s life has changed as well. He experiments with his own concoctions rather than using the recipes of his grandparents, and he has left his parents’ home in Whitestone for his own place in College Point.

In 1990, a young woman named Carla Compono came into La Cheesecake and ordered a blueberry pie. Although he does not recall asking her out, Julig began dating her, and they married a year later.

Now, the Juligs share their lives with four children: Jessica, 10, Brianna, 9, Tommy Jr., 5, and Joseph, 3. The business has become a part of the family. Carla helps out on the shop when it is busy, and Jessica and Brianna have shown interest in the register. Even Julig’s 80-year-old grandfather, Jim McCollan, continues to work at the shop part time.

Julig employs five people full time. He could not say for sure how many baked goods the shop produced a year, but he ventured that the number was as high as 100,000.

Julig maintains high standards for his employees. In particular, he said he has made sure that all of them are friendly.

At the shop, Julig’s dedication to a good spirit shows.

“My son used to run in the back,” said Stephanie McGuckin, a customer and resident of College Point. “It was always fine, even when there was a line down the block.”

McGuckin recalled that several years ago she ordered a birthday cake for her son with Julig. Her soon took ill and could not eat the cake before it spoiled. But six years later, after McGuckin and her son had moved to Woodhaven and then back, Julig gave her a large discount on another birthday cake for her son.

The customers of La Cheesecake are not the only people who enjoy the shop.

Jackie Ocasal, an employee, said she has a lot of fun at the job.

“We listen to music all day,” she said.

Julig said the friendliness of the employees pays off for his business.

“Business is good,” he said. “There’s only one secret to business: sell people quality things at a good price.”

Julig manages to keep a smile despite often working 16-hour days, staying at the shop until 2 a.m. Julig works the extra hours because he is the only one at the shop trained to make specialty cakes.

“It’s difficult,” explained Julig. “It probably takes six months to learn how to do it.”

With many members of his family working at his side and customers who jest with him, Julig said he has never gotten bored on the job.

For Julig, the desire to be a baker is a simple one.

“I just like the idea of creating stuff,” he said. “It’s a nice business. It really is.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

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