Family business satisfies Sacramento’s sweet tooth
By Jessica Laskey
As CEO of To The Bay and Back Gourmet Cheesecakes, Lambert Davis sleeps and breathes cheesecake. He eats his product too, but only “in moderation.”
“Lemon is my favorite,” Davis says. “You have to taste it to believe it.”
For more than 20 years, Davis has headed up one of Sacramento’s tastiest enterprises, a family-owned company with more than 70 cheesecake flavors. The name comes from Bodega Bay, the family’s favorite vacation site.
Everything is based on his mother’s cheesecake recipe.
“Mom was a great cook but she didn’t make cheesecake a lot. When she did, it was a special occasion,” says Davis, who grew up in Del Paso Heights and still owns a home there. “It’s a specialty dessert that’s hard to make. You have to know what you’re doing.”
The first time family members knew they had a hit was in 1991 when they brought their cheesecake to San Francisco Symphony’s Black and White Ball. The dessert earned “rave responses.” Davis realized a new business might be brewing.
Over the years, family members built on the recipe. After finishing a career in construction in the Bay Area, Davis learned how to bake the signature dessert. In 1999, To The Bay and Back signed a contract with its first manufacturer.
“Having a manufacturer means they do the heavy lifting,” Davis says.
The process is called co-packing. A third-party food manufacturer agrees to produce a product according to the recipe and requirements of a food business. “We’ve had three different manufacturers over the years and have become very astute to get out a lot of cheesecakes,” Davis says.
Clients such as United Grocers, UC Davis and Sacramento State rely on To The Bay and Back for a consistently excellent product in flavors that include lemon, New York style, goji berry and strawberry swirl. Seasonal favorites are pecan, pumpkin swirl and virgin piña colada.
Davis is proud that his company is state and federally certified, a rigorous process that guarantees quality.
Like most successful family businesses, Davis received support over the years. Help came from names big and obscure.
He credits grocery chain Smart & Final for staying open during the pandemic, which provided access to raw ingredients. Davis mentions Al Wilson, who leased Davis his first commercial kitchen and “took a chance on us when we were green.”
There’s a woman identified only as Ms. Gloria, a “wonderful human being who helped us with money to keep us alive over the years.” There’s Grammy Award winner Jay King, founder of music group Club Nouveau. Local Ethiopian eatery Queen Sheba is a “big supporter.” Also helping was Golden Pacific Bank and its president Virginia Varela.
The success is a testament to the power of help from family and friends and Davis’ entrepreneurial vision. “I always said I would own a business,” he says. “I just didn’t know it was going to be cheesecake.”
For information or to place an order, visit tothebayandbackcheesecake.com.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.