By Anna Grace Usery
Rachel Isbell knew exactly how God would put the cherry on top of her return to Oxford.
After spending a few years in Brazil as a missionary with her family and moving back to Mississippi to devote her life to teaching, one career aspiration kept tugging at her heartstrings.
With the blessing of her best friend and original Hernando restaurant owner Kim Daly, Isbell is opening Oxford’s newest dessert stop – City Hall Cheesecake, located at 2311 Jackson Avenue West, Suite 301 behind Chick-fil-A.
While customers will be able to stop in for freshly-brewed coffee and cheesecake, they will also have the chance to join in fellowship with others “who need to be loved on,” Isbell said.
“We want this to be a ministry first and business second,” she said. “And I knew if God wanted this to happen He needed to provide.”
Because the previous restaurant in the space went bankrupt, they were forced to leave most of their belongings behind, Isbell said. When relator John Trezevant originally showed her the space, he said she could keep the furniture if she wanted.
“That’s how God provided,” Isbell said.
She and others renovated the space to embody the familiarity of home. The black paint on the walls accentuates the shiny white cheesecake case as the encaged sputnik lights lightly illuminate the interior. Tables with deep brown reclaimed wood serve as the perfect fall background to bright orange mini-pumpkins and old glass vases. Bible verses greet customers on the walls, as well as a large mural stating “Choose Joy” that reminds customers to advocate for daily happiness.
City Hall Cheesecake will be serving more than just your Philadelphia original. It boasts more than 85-plus cake options, as well as a variety of different coffees—lattes are their specialties—and sodas as complements. For those chasing the proverbial fall-themed high, seasonal flavors like pumpkin pie, sweet potato and pecan pie will line the dessert cases on Friday.
Isbell clarified that the pecan pie cheesecake is somewhat of an oddity.
“We make a cheesecake, drop an entire pecan pie in the middle, and build more cheesecake on top,” she said, bobbing her head to indicate how delicious it was.
Isbell said those with dietary restrictions are also welcome. With keto-friendly and gluten-free options available, they are cognizant of recognizing everyone’s needs.
As Isbell and her staff serve the community a spoonful of sugar, they will also serve a space dedicated to weekly and monthly events. Every third weekend they will host a date night. Partners will receive two cups of coffee, two slices of cheesecake and 12 conversational questions to discuss with a partner. There will also be family nights filled with fun and board games for an after-dinner treat.
As she reflected on her experience as a teenager in Oxford, Isbell said this is the kind of space she wishes she would’ve had – a family-friendly environment with an underlying aspect of grace and fellowship.
“I want (customers) to see a reflection of something they’re not seeing in other places,” she said.
As she begins this endeavor, Isbell politely asks the community to be patient with her. She said she is prepared to make mistakes and learn from those experiences, just like she does as a Christian.
“That’s why we put that sign that says ‘patience and grace’ at the register. My prayer is that the community is understanding of that,” she said.
Slices of cheesecake at City Hall Cheesecake start at $6.99, while a whole original cheesecake is $49. Whole specialty cheesecakes are $59. The grand opening is set for Friday, Nov. 1.