Evelyn Overton, whose popular home-baked cheesecakes enabled her to found the Cheesecake Factory restaurant chain, died Wednesday. She was 75.
Overton died in Calabasas Hills, said her son, David, who is now chairman, president and chief executive officer of the popular eatery.
Although she had retired some years ago from day-to-day management, Evelyn Overton remained a vice president and director and still owned 9.5 % of the company. Her stock will remain in the family.
"My mother started our business by baking cheesecakes in the basement of our home for friends and relatives," her son said in a prepared statement. "As the cakes became more popular through word of mouth, my father developed a small delivery route. . . ."
With local restaurants as well as individuals ordering cakes, Overton and her husband, Oscar, formally launched the company in 1972. The Calabasas-based bakery expanded to offer more than 40 varieties of cheesecake and other baked items.
The son joined his parents in the business in 1974, and in 1978 they opened their first restaurant, primarily to showcase their cheesecakes. They still expected to make most of their sales to other local restaurants, and eventually to Ralphs grocery stores and Price Club warehouses.
But the Cheesecake Factory, known for multi-page menus and large portions, proved profitable as a restaurant. The chain soon had more than half a dozen outlets in Southern California in upscale neighborhoods such as Woodland Hills and beach communities from Marina del Rey to Newport Beach. The Overtons gradually expanded out of state with restaurants in Washington, Atlanta, Miami and Houston, capitalizing on their stylish but casual and affordable format.
"All of this was made possible by the entrepreneurial energy, drive, enthusiasm, attention to quality and detail, and creativity of my mother," David Overton said.