CHICAGO — Just in time for National Cheesecake Day celebrations, Eli’s Cheesecake broke ground on a 42,000-sq.-ft. addition to the bakery’s west and south sides, allowing for the expansion of bakery operations including production and packaging lines, warehousing, and welfare areas.

The groundbreaking took place onsite July 26, ahead of several events throughout the week commemorating the July 30 holiday.

Once the bakery’s expansion is complete, the Eli’s facility will be a total of 104,000 square feet, including corporate offices and the public-facing Eli’s Cheesecake Bakery Café.

“This expansion will allow Eli’s to enhance a well-earned reputation by giving them the capacity to put out even more delicious treats and create new ones in the future,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “I’m excited to see Eli’s Cheesecake continue to grow their business and know this new space will provide them with many new and lucrative opportunities once completed.”

The project will meet Sustainable Initiatives set by the City of Chicago by exceeding the energy code and providing landscape methods to achieve 60% native or adapted species, including a diversity of plant types such as flowering plants and grasses.

As part of this project, Eli’s has committed to increasing its employment from 225 to 300 workers with 65 construction jobs from the project. Eli’s has entered into a 6(b) tax incentive agreement with the City of Chicago for the new addition. The project will also take advantage of the EDGE Tax Credit Agreement with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) for the State of Illinois, an initiative that incentivizes businesses to create new jobs.

In addition to job creation, Eli’s will use this growth to continue its efforts to the educating of its workforce with programs like “Eli’s U,” an onsite GED program administered by Wright College received a visit in 1992 from then Governor Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. Eli’s and Wright are currently co-hosting the annual summer entrepreneurship program for Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHSAS) students, as well as offering new classes this fall. Independently, Eli’s offers awards scholarships annually for CHSAS graduating seniors.


“The rich legacy that has been fostered for 42 years, uplifting the local community through various programs to promote education and economic development, is a testament to how our food systems can be an outlet to unite and grow together." — Juliana Stratton | Illinois Lt. Governor


Eli’s is also a participant in a Job Training and Economic Development Grant by DCEO with Wright College. This initiative creates opportunities for students with disabilities from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences and Vaughn Occupational High School to work at Eli’s and in the food industry.

“We attribute our long-term success to following my father’s words of wisdom: ‘Charity will never bust you,’ and ‘Treat others as if you were the other,’” said Marc Schulman, Eli’s president.

The bakery also partners with Refugee One, supporting employees such as Elias Kasongo, who came to Eli’s from the Congo more than 28 years ago. After starting in the dish room, Kasongo is now VP of procurement.

In addition to refugees from Congo, Eli’s has hired refugees from Kosovo, Syrian, Iraq, Ruanda, Burma and Tibet. During the past six months, the company has also hired more than 50 Afghan refugees.

Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton was among several dignitaries present for the groundbreaking.

“It is an honor to join the Northwest Side community to commemorate the groundbreaking for Eli’s Cheesecake,” he said. “The rich legacy that has been fostered for 42 years, uplifting the local community through various programs to promote education and economic development, is a testament to how our food systems can be an outlet to unite and grow together.”

The groundbreaking was the first of several National Cheesecake Day celebrations hosted by the bakery throughout the week, including an Instagram contest that followers can enter to win a year of cheesecake, as well as free cheesecake giveaways at locations throughout Chicago on July 29. To celebrate the official holiday, Eli’s will host a festival-style celebration at the bakery on July 30, with 42¢ cheesecake slices.

The facility expansion, a projected $9.5 million project, is co-financed by Eli’s with Huntington National Bank. When the project is complete, the SBA 504 program will refinance up to $5.5 million through Somercor 504 Inc.

The expansion team includes Michael Aragona of Aragona Architects, the architect for Eli’s original facility in 1996, Summit Design as general contractor and Joel Friedland of Brit Properties as the owner representative.

“Eli’s ingenuity led to the Chicago-style cheesecake four decades ago and today leads to the company’s decision to double down on Illinois,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I’m pleased to welcome this manufacturing expansion and offer my gratitude to Eli’s for their continued community investment and support.”