West metro bakery Muddy Paws Cheesecake has closed — but is asking for donations to help reopen

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Muddy Paws Cheesecake, a 30-year-old bakery in St. Louis Park that boasts over 200 flavors of cheesecake, closed this week — possibly permanently, unless it can pay down significant debts within the next couple weeks.

And it’s asking the public for donations to help stay afloat.

The cheesecake bakery was founded in the early 1990s by Tami Cabrera and once had storefronts on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul and in Maple Grove and Uptown Minneapolis, before transitioning to its St. Louis Park flagship in the mid-2000s.

Muddy Paws has made more than 480,000 cheesecakes over the past three decades, including on the Food Network, at the White House and for TV host Al Roker, according to the company’s website. The business has also donated cheesecake, money and volunteer hours to a variety of local nonprofits, theater organizations and community support networks.

In an extensive post on the bakery’s website, Cabrera outlined the “snowball” of how the bakery ended up in nearly a half-million dollars of debt: A devastating burglary in 2018, after which the business underwent a pricier-than-expected move to another building nearby — which a car crashed into a year later. The pandemic began. Muddy Paws spent a considerable sum opening an artisan market in the West End area of St. Louis Park. Cabrera encountered significant challenges in her personal life. Her ingredient costs have skyrocketed.

All told, Cabrera wrote, the business needs to raise $240,000 — enough to cover about half its total debt load — by Jan. 19, 2024.

“For 30 years, Muddy Paws Cheesecake has given to local charities — hundreds of them — and now it’s time that we need help,” Cabrera said in a video posted on the website. “We are at a place where we are at too much debt to continue, and we need your help.”

Cabrera could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

If Muddy Paws is able to get back up and running, Cabrera plans to overhaul key parts of the bakery’s operations, she said in the announcement post on the bakery’s website.

For one, she’d cut down on flavors. Currently, an astonishing 222 flavors of cheesecake are available all the time — but going forward, she’d offer a selection of 24 flavors that would rotate monthly. Plus, the bakery would reduce retail hours to better balance the consumer-facing side of the business with its delivery and catering operations; launch a new website with online ordering; and explore ways to make shipping and delivery more efficient.

Cabrera does not take a salary from running the business, she said on the website, and has occasionally had to work other jobs to support her family.

This is not the first time Cabrera has turned to the public for a boost. In 2015, she launched a crowdfunding campaign and raised over $23,000 to purchase a ’50s camper trailer and retrofit it to become a cheesecake food truck of sorts, which she dubbed Camp Cheesecake.

However, the business has been without a vehicle able to pull the trailer since 2021, so Camp Cheesecake is effectively stuck. Part of Cabrera’s comeback plan involves buying a replacement vehicle so Camp Cheesecake can get back on the road.

“We never skimp,” Cabrera told Pioneer Press food critic Kathie Jenkins in 2005. “We use only Philadelphia cream cheese — no fillers or flour. We also want to give really good personal service and guaranteed satisfaction.”

Donations information is at muddypawscheesecake.com/save-muddy-paws.

All donors receive a sticker reading “I Saved Muddy Paws Cheesecake,” and those who give $75 get a T-shirt. Donors who give more than $250 will be listed on a wall display in the bakery’s lobby; personal or corporate donations of $1000 or more will come with a permanent wall decal of a logo or signature.

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