Dee’s Cheesecake Factory is closing its doors after 41 years in business — a move that clears the way for a similarly named national chain to enter the New Mexico market.
The venerable Albuquerque restaurant and bakery announced Thursday that it had reached an agreement with The Cheesecake Factory that allows the California-based company to open restaurants in New Mexico. Dee’s had once waged a legal battle with the 177-location chain over the name.
Steve Mager — whose late parents, Doris “Dee” and Hy, launched Dee’s in 1973 — said the family filed a 1997 federal trademark infringement suit against The Cheesecake Factory. A resulting settlement barred the larger company, founded in Beverly Hills in 1978, from opening restaurants in New Mexico, he said.
But Mager said Thursday that an agreement “made good sense” at this point. He declined to discuss the terms.
“The agreement is good, and it was the right time to retire the brand and retire it … with dignity,” said Mager, who owns Dee’s with wife Lisa.
Mager said The Cheesecake Factory intends to open a restaurant in Albuquerque but that he didn’t have additional details.
The Cheesecake Factory itself isn’t saying much.
A media representative said via email she could not comment on whether the company was considering Albuquerque. She provided a general statement from Alethea Rowe, senior director of public relations and brand management at The Cheesecake Factory:
“The Restaurant Development team is always on the look-out for A-1 sites to further grow our Cheesecake Factory brand presence, and all sites that fit our criteria for success will be seriously considered.”
Dee’s — which has spent the last 35 years at 3300 Menaul NE — will close for good on Oct. 31, a loss fans have been lamenting online since Thursday’s news broke.
“This is heart breaking!” a fan wrote on the Dee’s Facebook page.
Added another: “Noooooo!! Dee’s is SO much better! I’ve been going there, since I was a kid and will miss them so much! No eggnog cheesecake, this year.”
Mager said his parents — a pair of New Yorkers — started Dee’s as a small bakery on Lomas. They later spent five years at Coronado Center before ultimately settling in at the Menaul site. Cheesecake has remained the bakery’s calling card, though Mager says its sandwiches were also popular with customers.
While the bakery will close for good, Dee’s FoodService will continue to operate. The food-service distribution company represents a much larger part of the family business.
Mager called the bakery’s closure bittersweet but said he long expected such an agreement with The Cheesecake Factory was inevitable.
“They’re good operators. They run nice restaurants, and they’ll be really good for the Albuquerque economy and Albuquerque at large,” he said. “I look forward to people eating at their restaurant.”