Chocolate as a Mitzvah
The Confectionary! Mitzvah Wall. Caroline Lagnado/ JW
The kindness of strangers' chocolate
The kindness of strangers' chocolate
In a hole-in-the-wall chocolate shop near Tompkins Square Park in the East Village stands a narrow wall with some big messages.
Confectionary!, a store that's not much more than 2 small vitrines and a few shelves of chocolates and other vegan goodies, has begun a Mitzvah Wall, on which customers are able to leave notes--coupons really--for others to redeem for treats. The Mitzvah Wall takes up a slim space in between shelves of handmade chocolate bars, hazelnut spread, and jars of drinking chocolate.
The wall's notes range from "One chocolate for a teacher or other service health provider who did right by her/his charges today!" to "macaroon for someone who is in need of a sweet smile," to "A candy for someone who has been misgendered." Lagusta Yearwood, the proprietess of the shop and of this sweetness, answered a few questions about the do-gooder project for The JWFW.
Who is the chef behind Lagusta?
So, Confectionery!, our NYC outpost, is a joint shop between me, Lagusta Yearwood, the owner of Lagusta’s Luscious (chocolates), and my friend Maresa Volante, who owns Sweet Maresa’s, which makes baked goods.
How did the idea behind the Mitzvah Wall come about?
I saw a similar idea at Little Baby’s Ice Cream in Philly, and wanted to do something like it at our coffeeshop in New Paltz, which is called Lagusta’s Luscious Commissary! In thinking about about how to personalize it, I thought about what the idea of doing something good for others meant to me, and I thought about my mom who taught me to do a mitzvah every day—preferably an anonymous one. My mom, Pauline Dubkin-Yearwood, died after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer in December 2015 (she was a journalist on Jewish newspapers, actually—she was the managing editor of the Chicago Jewish News for almost 20 years). I spent all of 2015 caring for her, and in 2016 I threw myself into running my business as a way to claw my way out of the awful grief. This intense energy for work resulted in me opening two additional businesses: my partner and I opened Commissary! in early May 2016, and Maresa and I opened Confectionery! in late May 2016—opening two businesses in one month while keeping the original business running certainly helped take my mind off my sad heart. And we all worked to build in elements of my mom’s lovely and kind energy into both businesses. As last fall’s political season started heating up, Genna, who works at Confectionery! suggested doing a Mitzvah Wall at the shop in the city, too, and I loved the idea.
Has the shop gotten more attention for the Mitzvah Wall?
We use a hashtag, #themitzvahwall, on social media for both of the Mitzvah Walls, and I think people really enjoy posting photos and seeing what mitzvahs people have redeemed. The Commissary! Mitzvah Wall is about double the size of the one at Confectionery!, so it’s interesting to post photos of both.
Are many of the Mitzvah Wall notes related to the current political atmosphere?
Lots of them! Lots are about people who feel sad about the election, or scared, or just need a little something to get through the day.
What do you sell at your location in New Paltz?
At our chocolate shop in New Paltz, we sell all of the chocolates we have at our retail location in NYC, but everything’s made right there so we also sell a lot of small-batch sweets, testers that we’re working on, and things like chocolate-caramel ice cream bars that are harder to bring to NYC.
Are your chocolates kosher?
Our production facility isn’t certified kosher, but everything we make is vegan, so it’s all parve.