Hiatus Cheesecake founder Matthew Featherstone stands with his cheesecakes, which will be sold in Kroger grocery stores. Photo courtesy of Hiatus Cheesecake.

Local dessert business Hiatus Cheesecake won a national competition to sell their cheesecakes in Kroger grocery stores next year.

Hiatus was one of the five businesses selected to diversify Kroger’s product offerings and receive strategic mentorship.

Founder Matthew Featherstone inherited his culinary talent from his mother, who baked bread daily when he was growing up.

After trying his first Cheesecake Factory cheesecake, Featherstone fell in love with the dessert. He found a recipe online and made his first cheesecake, which later turned into a habit of making cheesecakes for friends, family, and events. 

Featherstone always had a love for dessert, but for years he stopped preparing it for others. That is until one day, while working as a bartender at Grace’s Mandarin at National Harbor, he made a cheesecake for his co-workers. The executive chef and the entire staff believed his work was so good he needed to go into business for himself. That year, 2016, Hiatus Cheesecake was born.

“At the time it was just for a little extra money,” Featherstone said. “But because of my background and my parents always teaching us about doing business for ourselves, I thought much bigger than just selling cheesecakes out of a truck.”

The name “Hiatus” signifies customers taking a temporary break from their diets to indulge in a sweet treat.

Featherstone initially started selling cheesecakes to restaurants, with Grace’s Mandarin as Hiatus’s first customer.

Over the next few years, Featherstone was able to market himself and expand to 10 grocery stores. Hiatus also become a vendor of the restaurant distributor Sysco, which allowed them to sell in 40 restaurants.

But everything changed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.

Hiatus lost all of its business with restaurants, but Featherstone was able to maintain relationships with two hospitals, which helped the business stay afloat during the pandemic. 

For years, Hiatus has operated out of a communal kitchen, B-More Kitchen. It was there that Whole Foods representatives visited the space looking to give entrepreneurs a chance to have their goods sold in local stores. 

Several businesses applied and Hiatus was one of the ones chosen to be placed in two Whole Foods stores: the Harbor East location in Baltimore and a Florida Avenue location in Washington, D.C. 

Lemon ginger cheesecake. Photo courtesy of Hiatus cheesecake.

With plans to continue expansion, Featherstone brought on a new business partner, Brandon Wiles, in August 2021.

The duo made their way to a series of pop-ups and festivals around Baltimore, D.C., and Virginia. They were able to continue growing and eventually found themselves in over 30 grocery stores, including every Whole Foods in Maryland and D.C.

But soon Whole Foods won’t be the only grocer carrying the decadent dessert. 

At the end of 2023, Hiatus Cheesecake will launch in Kroger stores as part of Kroger’s “Go Fresh, Go Local” business accelerator program. The program was designed to expand the selection of items sold in the Kroger stores, allowing for local businesses to work directly with the retailer, which will include Harris Teeter, Ralphs, and more.

In August of this year, Hiatus was announced as one of 5 winners out of 1,600 applicants nationwide.

“Initially product availability in stores [across the U.S.] will be based on what our capabilities are by the time they get to May/June,” Featherstone said. “Kroger will make a decision on how many stores we go into. We are now looking for co-packing manufacturers in places like Kentucky, Kansas City, and Austin. We’re hoping to find one in Q1 of next year so that by the time we have them trained on the process we’ll have a co-packing manufacturer that’ll be able to handle the volume and we can get a further reach. Over the next year Kroger plans to spread us out, but if this initial reach can be further than our region it will give us a nice running start.”

Hiatus is currently raising money through crowdfunding site Homeycomb Credit to facilitate the growth they anticipate next year.

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Latrice Hill

Latrice Hill is a Baltimore native and Morgan State University graduate who loves all the great things this city has to offer. She worked with WMAR 2-News as an Assignment Desk Editor before she joined...