Petaluma restaurateur Michele Rosen dies

Michele Rosen, a Petaluma restaurateur who came to the aid of virtually anyone in need, died on Sunday, Jan. 2, at her home in Petaluma. She had fallen two weeks earlier while delivering a cheesecake to a client. She most likely died from blood clots in her lung as a result. She was 55.

Rosen was born on Jan. 24, 1949 in San Francisco to two postal workers. Her grandparents were Petaluma chicken farmers.

Rosen attended U.C. Santa Barbara, but did not graduate. Her sister Jan, who had some restaurant experience, said it was a different time, in the 1970s, when the business was not so open to women. Her idea was “let’s open our own.”

The two sisters opened the Salad Mill in Petaluma, which was instantly successful. They later opened a second one.

In 1983, the sisters opened the wholesale bakery J. M. Rosen’s Cheesecake and introduced a cheesecake that later became famous after Frank Sinatra had one. The cheesecake became one of his favorites, and with his endorsement, it was then stocked in numerous Los Angeles establishments.

They also ran the successful J.M. Waterfront Grill and Rosen’s Eastside Grill, both in Petaluma.

Rosen was a member of Petaluma’s Congregation B’nai Israel, and just a few weeks ago, she took a new employee of one of her restaurants there and showed him the synagogue’s memorial wall.

“The synagogue meant a great deal to her, as it was all people she had grown up with,” said Rabbi Leah Sudran, spiritual leader of B’nai Israel. “Many synagogue people held their birthdays or celebrations at the Rosens’ restaurants.”

In addition to her sister Jan of Petaluma, Rosen is survived by her brother Barry Rosen of Palm Desert.

Contributions can be made to the Donald and Maureen Green Music Center at Sonoma State University, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park, CA 94928.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."