best of 2021

In some ways, in most ways, honestly, 2021 was harder than 2020. In 2020 I had a huge, year-long burst of energy to save my businesses during a global pandemic. I powered through every day with manic exuberance. WE. DID. SO. MUCH. My god. Read this recap! I’m exhausted thinking about it.

In 2021 I still wanted to save my businesses, but it seemed pretty clear they’d be OK. So it became the slog of negotiating constant waves of new variants, changing rules, and trying to summon energy for the endless watchfulness that trying to create workspaces that keep 40 people safe from a deadly virus demands. We made a decision to be more cautious than most places, out of concern for the most vulnerable among us, and it’s hard. Every day it’s hard.

But it’s also joyful and full of satisfaction and so much beauty.

And the businesses survived, and even thrived. And we worked hard to make them a place of safety and strength for those who work here and shop here.

At LL, we made a lot of systemic improvements to our space this year, but what I’m most proud of is creating a Managing Partners program to introduce profit-sharing among managers who have worked at LL longer than two years. It took a few months of discussions to get the goals of this program just right (thank you to our *tireless* bookkeeper Rachel for endless help with this!) but now we have clear goals in sight. Most of all, I’m so grateful to have formalized a team to help me with decision making — l look to our managers for wisdom and advice, and it feels good to know that their expertise will help shape our space in more of a formal way with concrete financial goals in mind.

With these goals, we were able to have several rounds of across-the-board raises and raising our starting wage at LL. Our next goal is to see if we can afford paid breaks for everyone in 2022 — we’ll see!

We got some MEGA press this year. The Today Show, the Washington Post, and THE NEW YORK TIMES. And more.

We made holographic chocolates, a longtime goal, and VEGAN ASTRONAUT ICE CREAM, which wasn’t a goal, until it was.

Oh, and we had our 10 year shop anniversary! I’ve been making chocolates under the name LL since 2003, but we opened the retail shop in 2011.

The best thing I ate all year was this bonkers caramel that Sama made. So good, so haunting.

And we spent the entire year working with Rabe & Co on beautiful new designs that have elevated our confections so much.

We made this flavor graveyard to memorialize confections of days past.

We had not one but TWO drag shows in our parking lot: one at our giant 10 year anniversary party, and one for Halloween.

Commissary had a rough year, but we’re ending strong. The staff who had worked with us throughout the first year of the pandemic were, like me, completely mentally and emotionally exhausted. Interacting with customers every day — wearing masks for 8-hour shifts and trying to stay calm as people yell at you that they don’t want to wear a mask for 5 minutes — it does something to your soul. We had almost a complete staff turnover in 2021, and I get it. There were days I wanted to flee, too. Instead, I gave up on the restaurant model, and we’re slowly morphing into a place for provisions, a small menu, beautiful food and non food things, art and more.

We have some fun other changes coming in 2022, too. And now we have an almost all-new crew and I’ve put in place a lot of safeguards to prevent burnout: shorter, more flexible shifts, quicker closings, a smaller menu, no indoor seating for the time being.

We implemented a robust grab & go program with nice stickers to tie everything together and look cute in your fridge.

We had great April fools pranks at LL & Comm and Confectionery, ha ha.

Confectionery has faced all the same challenges that Commissary has in terms of being such a public-facing business, and the tiny crew in our tiny NYC sweets shop has sailed along. Because we have only one person working at a time we have to close whenever that person realizes they’ve been exposed and needs to go hunt down a test. Our hours can be unpredictable. Our customers continue to be amazing and to ride these bumpy rides with us. Our manager, Isa, faces every day with perfect equanimity, whatever it brings, and our gratitude is bottomless.

Ericka made this lovely Confectionery timeline — we’ve come a long way!

Here’s to 2022, less masks, more meals eaten together, more stability and sleep, but just as much love, care, concern, delicious food and treats and amazing humans to share it all with.

Past best-ofs:

2015 (more!)