Big Nita’s Cheesecakes owners Nicole Burks and her fiancé Roberto “Berto” Davila spend four days a week prepping for their business hours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. On those days, passersby will notice a line trailing out of the small shop and down the sidewalk of East Main Street. That’s because guests arrive early to get their hands on the flavors they want — every item has sold out daily since the store opened in January 2023! We caught up with Nicole to find out how she built her business, what she would have done differently, and what she likes to do when she isn’t whipping up sweets.
How did Big Nita’s Cheesecakes come to be?
A few years ago, Roberto and I were in a really crummy time in our lives. I had just recently gotten sober, and I really needed something to keep my mind occupied. I came across a recipe on Facebook for a banana pudding cheesecake bar, and I told Berto I wanted to make it; I thought it would be the perfect thing to keep me busy. We were super broke at the time and didn’t have extra money to get baking goods, but we scraped the funds together to make it happen. I made the banana pudding cheesecake bars and started giving them away to friends. Everyone liked it and started asking for other flavors, so we just started making different ones. That’s how everything started.
What happened after that?
We had been baking at home, but as orders grew, we started saving for a food truck. We got a super good deal from one on Facebook Marketplace, fixed it up, and operated out of it for a while. After that, we moved into a commissary kitchen. Then, on January 28 of this year, we opened our storefront. I remember because it was the day after my birthday.
And how has business been?
There’s a line at the door every day when we open. We have more business than we could ever imagine! Our goal with the storefront was obviously to accommodate more orders and business, but we quickly realized we were already maxed out of space. That’s why we only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Even though we’re only open on those three days, we prep all week. We have six employees now, and we all have to bake and prep all week to be open on the weekends. We’ve sold out every day since we opened. We sell about 3,000 items every week.
Where did “Big Nita’s” come from?
It’s a nickname. My Spanish name for Nicole was “Nita” in middle school. When I got to high school, I kind of ran with the guys. I did powder puff football and weightlifting — and I weighed a lot more then — so one of my friends started calling me “Big Nita.” The name just stuck, and that’s what a lot of friends and family call me.
What can people expect to find at your store?
We do cheesecakes, of course, but we also do cheesecake cookies, cheesecake bars, and cheesecake-filled cupcakes. We even have cheesecake banana bread. It’s all kinds of desserts you could traditionally get elsewhere but with cheesecake!
Is there anything new and exciting in the works?
We just released a line of cheesecake-stuffed pies. We’re also doing cheesecake-stuffed cakes so people can expect more of those stuffed pies and cakes. We’re also planning on dabbling with some savory-style cheesecakes — I’m excited for that.
What advice do you have for someone who might be thinking about starting a new business?
The biggest thing would be building your clientele from the beginning and promoting your business on social media immediately. Use Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms to get the word out. When we started, we’d make things and give them to our friends and family first. We still do the same thing with new flavors before officially releasing it. Another thing is to know exactly who your market is. For us, it was our family, friends, and coworkers — that is where a big chunk of our business came from. We used social media and word-of-mouth, focusing hard on using people we knew to help spread the word about our new business.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
I would have started promoting on different platforms immediately. When I first started, I focused mainly on Facebook — to this day, 90% of our business comes from Facebook. I wish I had gotten heavily into TikTok and Instagram, too. I think we would have a much bigger following if we started hard on those platforms as well.
Who are your role models?
My future mother- and father-in-law. They are so hardworking and kind, and they help us so much.
Where do you like to eat, play, and shop when you have free time?
Our favorite place to dine is Veronica’s Mexican Restaurant on Poplar Level Road. We’ve been busier than ever, but when we have the time, our version of “play” is going to Cultured to get a charcuterie board and a drink and just hang out. As far as shopping, we like to patronize the local stores in NuLu.
What’s the best advice you have ever given or received?
No matter the obstacle, don’t ever give up! Always push forward.
Aside from faith, family, and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Right now, I cannot live without Tru Fru; I’m heavily addicted to that stuff and have to have it every night. They have chocolate-covered cherries, blueberries, and strawberries. It’s the most delicious, decadent, and somewhat healthy dessert. Secondly, my fiance, Berto. He’s basically like family, but I couldn’t live without him! Also, my employees — we cannot go without our employees.
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All photos are courtesy of Big Nita’s Cheesecakes.
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