Made in Georgia: Her love of making cheesecakes turned into a business

Lazar Oglesby opened Honey Cheesecakes so that she could concentrate on making her favorite dessert. Courtesy of Megan Baradine

Credit: Megan Baradine

Credit: Megan Baradine

Lazar Oglesby opened Honey Cheesecakes so that she could concentrate on making her favorite dessert. Courtesy of Megan Baradine

Lazar Oglesby knew she loved cheesecakes when she first began working as a chef.

However, she had no idea that she would wind up as the owner of Honey Cheesecakes in Millen, producing 90 to 120 of the treats a day, some of which are shipped across the country.

While working at a quail hunting plantation, Oglesby said, “I learned that I liked the catering side of the business.” In 2012, she left the plantation and opened a catering business. And, of course, cheesecake was the dessert that went on the menu.

Oglesby made the cheesecakes using a KitchenAid mixer she had inherited from a great aunt, and she baked them two at a time in her household oven.

“Those cheesecakes baked for five hours,” she said, “because I knew they had to be baked low and slow, so the cheesecakes wouldn’t crack and they wouldn’t have any color on top. It’s time-consuming, but everybody loved them.”

Her cheesecakes are not dense and heavy, like the New York-style version. “I tell people these are Southern cheesecakes — sweeter, lighter and fluffier,” Oglesby said.

Georgia peach crumble cheesecake is one of more than 100 flavors made by Honey Cheesecakes of Millen. Courtesy of Megan Baradine

Credit: Megan Baradine

icon to expand image

Credit: Megan Baradine

Most of her cheesecakes come with a graham cracker crust that has a little more sugar, to help it caramelize. “There’s a pecan shortbread crust that I do sometimes, and I experiment with others, but I always go back to the classic graham cracker,” she said.

Oglesby married her husband Johnny the same year she opened her catering company, and he foresaw what she didn’t at the time — that the cheesecakes could be a business on their own.

In 2015, Oglesby and her sister, Mary Beth Brown, also opened Dolan’s Bar-B-Q in Millen, named after their grandfather, Dolan Brown. When they outgrew that location, they moved the business to Statesboro.

Most Honey Cheesecakes are made with a graham cracker crust that has a little more sugar, to help it caramelize. Courtesy of Megan Baradine

Credit: Megan Baradine

icon to expand image

Credit: Megan Baradine

Inside the restaurant is the Honey Specialty Store, where people can buy whole cheesecakes or slices, as well as the catering side’s pimento and chicken salad, and up to a dozen different casseroles.

Oglesby and her bakery team concentrate on making the cheesecakes, rotating through more than 100 different flavors. When the day’s selections are made, they share the list via Facebook. Her lemon blueberry crumble cheesecake won first place in its category this past March in the University of Georgia’s Flavor of Georgia competition.

Inspiration for those flavors comes from many places, she said. “Banana pudding cheesecake, pecan pie cheesecake, cheesecake layered with strawberry cake, Fruity Pebbles cheesecake, strawberry Pop Tart cheesecake — we have lots of ideas, and we’ll develop a custom flavor for our clients if they give us a little lead time.

“I do believe if it tastes good alone, it will taste better in a cheesecake,” Oglesby said. “But when we tried a pimento cheese cheesecake, people either thought it was the greatest thing ever or they were completely confused by it. I hated it.”

Nicole Herrington pours the fillings for some of the 90 to 120 cheesecakes that the Honey Cheesecakes team bakes each day. Courtesy of Megan Baradine

Credit: Megan Baradine

icon to expand image

Credit: Megan Baradine

Making all those cheesecakes every day is a team effort. Oglesby measures the ingredients and longtime staff member Nicole Herrington mixes the fillings, while others make the crusts. Each cheesecake is poured by hand. Other jobs include the slicing, packing and dishwashing.

Oglesby said she intends to continue making cheesecakes the same way. “Sure, I’d like to ship a lot more,” she said, “but I am not going to cut corners. I would rather sell less and keep the quality high than skimp on the ingredients just to sell more cheesecakes.”

She added that she is “grateful for people like Carrie Morey of Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit and Amanda Wilbanks of Southern Baked Pie Co., who have shared what they’ve done to create Southern companies that send their food across the country.”

Sign up for the AJC Food and Dining Newsletter

Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.

About the Author