It’s been there for ten award winning years, thousands of customers and accolades from gourmands and just plain food lovers alike, but Philly’s Famous Cheesesteaks on West Avenue in Atlantic Highlands closed Sunday so owner Cheryl DeSantis can finally sit back and smell the roses.
The attractive, effervescent blonde former lingerie designer turned chef and recipe-creator has been running Philly’s Famous Cheesesteaks on her own since her husband, Peter, died three years ago. And looking back, Cheryl smiles, recalling how the business got started by her husband when he was in his 70s, and said, “ It’s been fun.”
Peter and Cheryl had traveled all over the world , she had been a highly recognized lingerie designer whose creations were offered by top fashion houses and sold to Middle Eastern royalty and other wealthy clients. But when illness in his 70s forced a changed in plans, Peter decided to open a business with the hope of creating a franchise in the future. He and his brother had started with Great Garlic, jarred garlic and garlic spread, and Cheryl brags she was “always a great cook,” so the Philly’s Cheese Steak idea seemed like a winner. Opening it in this community of great friendly people and a reputation for having outstanding businesses on its main street and more, made the idea even better.
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Now, with Peter gone, and a future in which she wants to relax a bit and get back to tending things she’s overlooked because of her interest in making the business perfect , Cheryl is ready to close the door.
The building itself was leased, she explained, so it is not for sale. But she is selling all the kitchen ware and dining room items, from salt and pepper shakers to tables and chairs, and donating any foodstuffs still packaged to one of the local food charities such as Lunch Break or Soul Kitchen in Red Bank. She is also selling the name, reputation and awards to a willing buyer, along with the licensing of continuing the name and expanding it. The awards include being named one of the top five Philly Cheese Steak shops in the country, the top-rated cheesesteak in the state, central New Jersey and Monmouth County, as well as a rating of 4.7 out of five along the Jersey Shore.
Cheryl quips good-naturedly that all those awards came after she took over running the business, and credits her cooking and recipe ability to her ancestry which has a bit of everything from Italian to English and Irish. “That means I’ve gotten an ancestry that appreciates quality, doing the right thing, and always doing it with elegance.” That, she laughed, coupled with her own determination to always do the best you can in whatever business you’re in, is the secret to her success and her being able to look back on her cheese steak legacy. “Some of my friends laughed when I sent from distinctive and elegant lingerie design to making cheese steaks, but so what? There’s no shame in being the best you can be, no matter what it is you do.”
Persons interested in purchasing any of the equipment or furnishings up for sale or interested in buying the business can contact Cheryl on the website, Philly’s Famous Cheesecakes.