Marc Silverberg never set out to make cheesecakes for a living. Many of his friends had gone to culinary school and he was always a casual cook, but the Teaneck native went to school for education and wound up working with refugees in Israel. One night, after a day spent on an art project with children, he was baking clay figurines they had made. When he finished, he turned to his friend and said, “Well, the oven’s hot, let’s make a cake.”
He couldn’t have known then that he was embarking on a new career; he didn’t even know what kind of cake to make. But they went to the grocery next door and found the ingredients for a cheesecake. “It was really disgusting,” he says, “like sweet scrambled eggs. It was bad.”
But he kept at it, creating and selling recipes on the weekend, and eventually opening a café in Jerusalem. After returning to New Jersey, he opened Marc’s Cheesecake in Clifton in 1994. For the last 18 years, he’s been there perfecting the craft, establishing a specialty cheesecake shop that’s far surpassed the first concoction.
And if experimentation marked the initial opening of his cheesecake business, his willingness to further adapt to a new business climate marks his planned relocation to Glen Rock this month.
In Clifton his shop had been mostly oriented toward wholesale, but changes in the economy have brought a shift, he says. “I used to pick up the phone and say, ‘How many cakes would you like?’ Now I’m picking up the phone and saying, ‘Could you please pay me for August?’ And because the wholesale side has gotten so much harder I decided I wanted to reorient my business and focus more on retail.”
His new storefront, adjacent to the train tracks on Rock Road, was an ideal location for a more retail oriented business. Plus, he says, a high school friend lives in Glen Rock, “and she always raves about the town.”
The core of the business will remain the same, centering around rich specialty cakes with fresh ingredients rather than canned toppings. But he will add slices, smaller desserts, and coffee—all of which go back to his roots in his first Israeli café but were not feasible at his Clifton location.
The shop will continue to sell whole cheesecakes, but patrons can count on a new place in town to sit and have dessert and coffee for around $5-6. And, Silverberg stresses, the spirit of experimentation will continue—customers can count on frequent samples of new recipes. “Everybody that walks into this place is going to be welcome to have a bite of something. We’re going to put something in everybody’s mouth.”
Marc wants to enjoy his work, and hopes to be a positive place within the community. “I’m going to be there a lot of hours, and I wanna have fun too.” He adds that he might be willing to enforce this rule, if necessary. “If you don’t smile, no cheesecake for you. That’s kind of my attitude. I want people to enjoy.”