Let Them Eat Cake
City Hall Cheesecake owners Dianne and Ronald Bishop’s homegrown success story began in the heart of Hernando.
Story by Natalie Troutt photos by Terry Sweeney
City Hall Cheesecake owners Dianne and Ronald Bishop know about hard work. After being laid off from his job as a mechanical engineer, Ronald unsuccessfully searched for a new job for two years before deciding it was time to take matters into his own hands.
In January of 2011, Ronald and Dianne opened City Hall Cheesecake in Hernando, Mississippi. A small, cozy shop located right off the square, the store was an instant success. The inside of the shop has an intimate feel to it, with little round tables and orange walls adorned with pictures paying tribute to the city of Hernando. Dianne says they chose to open a cheesecake shop because they were inspired by another cheesecake shop in Memphis that was one of the couple’s favorite eateries. Realizing that there was nothing like that in the DeSoto County area, they chose to go ahead with the idea. “We were looking for a family-type place, where people could come together, sit down, have a good time, good conversation, and enjoy good cheesecake and coffee,” says Ronald. Surprisingly, the Bishops have no chefs or bakers in either of their families. Dianne says that they simply love to cook. The couple credits their daughter Melissa for many of the recipes behind the creamy confections of City Hall Cheesecake. She scoured the internet for recipes, tweaked them, and spent four months (with the help of her parents) doing trial-and-error tests with all of the different flavors.
Though Dianne does some of the baking, she also teaches at Hernando High School during the day, so much of the prepwork is left to Ronald. Dianne handles the business side of things, such as bills and advertising, and usually arrives at the store around 3:30 p.m., after school is out for the day. Ronald says a typical day for him starts with his arrival at the Hernando shop at around 7:30 each morning. He takes inventory of the supplies, then will either go on a supply run or begin baking cakes. The baking is a constant process, with much time and care going into each tasty treat. According to Ronald, “There’s about 30 hours of love in each cake.” Dianne explains that it’s very different from making a pie, where it can be put it in the oven, and then immediately served. Each cheesecake spends an hour in the oven, an hour sitting out, and another 24 hours in the refrigerator. The end of a work day for the Bishop’s can be as late as 11 p.m.
Both Dianne and Ronald were born in Memphis, Tennessee, and lived there through their high school years. After marrying, they moved to Southaven, Mississippi, and then finally to Hernando, where they have lived for the past 25 years. Dianne says that the best part about owning a business in the area is the people. “The people are so kind and sweet. If we’re out of something, or low on something, they don’t get mad, they just pick another flavor.” The couple also said that while they enjoy baking the cakes, they really like simply interacting with the customers on a daily basis.
As far as the cheesecake goes, City Hall offers plenty to choose from. There are about 10-12 flavors that are always available, such as cookies-n-cream, triple chocolate, and white chocolate raspberry (a big seller, as well as Dianne’s favorite). They offer a sugar-free option for diabetics and those that are watching their sugar intake, as well. There are also around 30 other unique flavors that are rotated in and out for weekly specials and seasonal surprises, such as the pecan pie, pumpkin (a big holiday seller), and red velvet. As well as having many flavors to choose from, Dianne mentioned that they are very open to flavor requests from customers. The store was such a hit in Mississippi that the couple opened a second City Hall Cheesecake on the square in Collierville, Tennessee in March of last year. The couple says they hope to expand operations beyond the immediate area in a number of potential locales that include Tupelo, Nashville, and Mobile, Alabama. Dianne says that when they opened the Hernando store, she never thought they would have the opportunity to expand as much as they have already.
Both City Hall Cheesecake stores are a family affair for the Bishops, with the Collierville store run by the couple’s daughter, Melissa, and her husband Kyle. Kyle and Melissa share a dynamic very similar to Dianne and Ronald, with Kyle doing the majority of the baking, and Melissa, who also works at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, handling the business side of things. That is, until Kyle recently broke his arm and has had to sit on the sidelines while Melissa, as well as her parents, stepped in to lend a hand while he recovers. However, frequent trips to the Collierville location are nothing new to the Bishops. Ronald goes to the Collierville store three to four times a week, working in the store one day, and transporting supplies every few days, while Dianne makes the trip a couple of times a week as well. The Bishops prepare around 100 cakes a week at their Hernando location, not including the special events such as weddings and birthdays that they bake cakes for.
They may not sell all 100 cakes each week, but that’s just fine by them. They say that they always hope to have some cakes left at the end of the week so that they don’t have to come in on Sunday, their only day off, and bake. The Bishops are very family-oriented, and all of their family members, including the little ones, do what they can to support the shop. In addition to their daughter Melissa, the couple also have a son, Matt , and two grandsons, Parker and Hudson . The couple says that four-year-old Parker, in particular, is quite the crowd-pleaser when he enters the store, talking to everyone and checking up on customers. Whole cheesecakes range in price from $35 to $55. They sell it by the slice, and have recently added cheesecake cupcakes to their menu. With cheesecake being such a large part of their lives now, one can’t help but wonder if the couple is burned out on eating it yet. “That might be possible some day, but not right now,” says Ronald. City Hall Cheesecake is open Monday through Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and noon to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.