Best of 2016

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It’s the night before my annual vacation, I’m drinking my tea with lotsa whiskey, I’m listening to Miley Cyrus even though I am thirty and eight years old. Let’s go.

2016 in the LL-verse. Will I ever write one of these where I don’t say

IT WAS OUR BIGGEST AND BUSIEST YEAR YET WOW

WHAT A RUSH

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The answer is yes! In like 3 years when I pay off some business debt and can afford to keep the business smallllllll (is beautiful) and pay everyone so so so much better (thru magic/efficiency). (Or: When our incoming president blows us all up with his Twitter account & chocolate isn’t a thing ever again.) Just you wait, Henry Higgins! We’re going to annoy everyone by being that pretentious business always shouting about how we’ve won capitalism and are staying true to our anarchist ideals by turning down business and doing something called “days off.” YOU KNOW THAT GENRE, RIGHT? It’s a thing, right?

But first: baby’s gotta pay off a coupla Selmis.

Thus.

IT WAS OUR BIGGEST AND BUSIEST YEAR YET WOW

WHAT A RUSH

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I love picking out staff gifts and wrapping them all twee with little handwritten cards and things. (Hey, I’m never gonna have kids, so I’ll take my present-giving pleasures where I can get em.) Usually I spend a nice night in my home office writing the letters and wrapping, a little respite from the December craziness. This year I had to take three full nights off from work to get it all done. Last year I wrapped about ten presents, this year I wrapped over twenty.

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Wtfffffff.

The truth of 2016 is I didn’t want to think about my mom having died, so I created a new reality for myself in which I wasn’t given any time to think about it. I wouldn’t exactly recommend it as a strategy for grieving, but as a business-running tactic it’s hella perf.

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Within two weeks in May I opened up an NYC sweets shop with my BFF, Maresa, and a coffeeshop with my partner, Jacob. I didn’t sleep at all in May, it was great! I definitely didn’t spend most of June falling apart, nope! Why do you ask?

Highlights @ random:

  • Um I mean opening Confectionery! and Commissary! was a highlight, yeah. Put exclamation points after your businesses, people. It’s good to do. There’s a highlight for ya. Exclamation points. !
  • I have this friend I met through the internet, Liz, as one does these days. Liz used to do things like work undercover in factory farms taking videos of animal abuses that are still used today to influence legislation and stuff, and now Liz has become a huge coffee nerd/roaster/coffeeshop owner. I could explain all about how this journey parallels my own in ways but I’m always on about that junk so let’s just say I love Liz. So Liz came out to do a two week-long skill-share. God, it was great! Living with another rabid food weirdo for two weeks! Working around the clock! Liz is good at everything! Highlight.

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  • Liz is also a huger food snob than me, which I didn’t think possible, and tasting my way through a few weeks with her strengthened my commitment to using my practice of veganism as clear-eyed needle-nosed activism through making the best well-fed-not-an-animal-dead food and drinks known to humanity. It’s good perfection motivation (my therapist would tell you I don’t need any more of that) to keep up yr standards when not just making money (boringest goal) but the elevation of the progressive movement you most care about is at stake, too.
  • On one of our training days for Commissary!, I stared at the 6 people staring at me waiting to teach them how to run a coffeeshop when I didn’t yet know how to run a coffeeshop (do this, people, it is good for you, to be dumb at things you very quickly have to learn to be great at) and I got a for-real chill down my spine, thinking, “These guys don’t know it yet, but they’re about to become best friends.” Six strangers. That’s abnormal in lil incestuous New Paltz, but I’d brought in ringers: three of our crew were hauled in via social media from cities around the country. Bonkers, eh? Nerve-wracking, eh? And now three of them live together and everyone hangs out after work and the team of six is so tight and runs the place by themselves ridiculously well.
  • (No fancy dinners to report about this year. Oh, but just you wait, 2017.)
  • Weirdly, or not, the New Paltz chocolate shop, heretofore referred to by its given name, Lagusta’s Luscious, continued to up its game. Everyone seemed to, plainly put, get a lot better at their jobs this year. And they were very good at their jobs last year. Everyone new we hired fit into this higher level, or rose to it quickly. The managers run the place so efficiently that now I find myself asking them questions all the time, knowing that since I last made Peppermint Bark or shipped a UPS Ground to California (don’t do it!) they’ve developed better systems than the janky ones I originally instituted.

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  • Kate’s been organizing little shows at Commissary! They’re so perfect. Softhearted, warm, friendly. A sweet community of bands, a constellation of loveliness. We got an offer to have a Big Name play, but word on the street is that he’s not a cool dude. No room for uncool dude vibes in our space. Kate turned him down and he was madddddd. Ha!
  • I just like these guys. I just like them, these women and gender nonconforming individuals and Alan & Jacob. They’re interesting. If I were to write a novel about them (don’t worry that’s definitely not a thing I’ve already started on) it would be impossible because they’re all so themselves in all their interestingnesses and weirdnesses that fictionalizing wouldn’t work. Not one but two of them went to Salem around Halloween because they wanted to get even witchier. Which isn’t really even possible. I mean come on. Jenn knit a santa hat for Tinsley, the gaudy tinsel Halloween cat Kate and I bought at the supermarket (yes she adorably rode the conveyor belt into my arms) which, for reasons I can’t really parse, has to live on the front counter, propping up the Drinking Chocolate menu, or else everyone is mad at me. Veronica (my first employee, hired when she was 17, now grown and running our NYC shop for us, along with Caitlin & Genna) politely asked if we can plan her days off from Confectionery! around Film Forum’s cheap days. Genna’s taking six days off this winter to finish a huge tattoo. Caitlin, of pink hair and vintage dresses, speaks a hundred languages and is getting a PhD in things I can’t explain at Yeshiva University and moonlights making baked goods for her roller derby team. Alexandra spent the semester in Africa preparing for a career of working with elephants and came back not missing a beat, gently teaching the newbies how best to scrub the sink. Alan has become the Commissary! mascot, so lovingly perplexed are all of us about his weird brain, tattoo of his dog’s logo (I know) and obsession with reading Infinite Jest. Adrienne and Kate sent a lot of chocolates to a podcast they like about Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the podcasters came to the shop kvelling like crazy and everyone took a lot of photos of themselves jumping very high in the air. Once Kate asked Adrienne what she was going to do that night and she said, “I might put the rats in the bathtub. Not with water, just to hang out together.” I can’t even start in on Alexis’s far-reaching genius, or Taylor’s enrobing prowess, how she’s perfect at everything she touches, even (esp!) when that thing is scraping the floor free of stuck on chocolate. Sarah Jo comes to us as the World’s First Openly Lesbian Navy Chaplin, blowing all of our minds with stories of the military and organized religion on the reg. Ilianna’s wild energy belies a deep understanding of far-left politics that will blow your mind, Kathleen’s effortless competence and humility blow my mind every day, I bow to her strength. Rachel’s one of those people who seems sweet and normie until you learn she’s full-on making puppets at night. Kate, queen of sweet queerdos, presides over choco town appreciating these nuts as much as me, never raises an eyebrow when I ask her to do things like see if the totebag people can provide us with written proof the people sewing the totebags are paid a living wage. Chrissy’s soft heart—a ripe persimmon, sweetness lingering. Cam busting in after high school to tear through a mountain of dishes. Vivian’s quiet, all-seeing eyes. Jacob there to catch anything that could fall through the cracks, efficiency expert, perfection personified.
  • Um, I also like my drive home from Confectionery!, every other Wednesday night. I dawdle until it’s really late, who knows why. Close up shop, get an ice cream at Superiority Burger, read The New Yorker. Right before they close I usually have my favorite seat under the Divine poster (bow down) all to myself. The car’s all packed, I put the padlocks on the grate (Brooks says “gate,” I’m sure I’m right) at 440 and I love that drive, westward along 9th Street, snaking through favorite neighborhoods, a side towel spread out on my lap and messy Superiority Burger (sandwich equivalent of my heart) in one hand, a good long day in our tiny sugar shoebox done, my mind unspooling lazily past where St. Mark’s Bookshop used to be, past Stonewall, easing onto the West Side Highway, up past the new Whitney (I’ll get there eventually), stupid Trump world, Fairway (best). The highlight of my year is midnight Manhattan driving? Yup.

ENOUGH ABOUT MY CRAP! Let’s get to everyone else.

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Are you ready to tear up?

NOT KIDDING.

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LL:

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VIVIAN                                                                                                                                                            The shop became a warm, cozy haven in 2016. Though my time at Lagusta’s Luscious has been short and sweet (a few months,) I have learned so much and can only imagine the plethora of information I have yet to soak up. 2016 was a year full of chaos, political and social turmoil, weirdness, and mental fuzziness that makes you want to believe that the stars and planets were just not aligned even though you don’t entirely believe in that kind of stuff but really want to, but the shop provided an agreeable comfort.

As a newbie, I have much more to experience. Lagusta’s Luscious has provided me with a platform to do so. There is always a new task to complete, a different technique to apply, an unfamiliar recipe to create.

However, my short time at LL has taught me some invaluable information;

  • Work, work, work
  • Efficiency+quality= success
  • One CAN get tired of eating too much chocolate
  • Take care of your feet with clogs like Lagusta, Kate, and Alexis [Lagusta note: wipes hands on apron; hangs it up; work here done]
  • Keep watch of the water in the double boiler so it doesn’t all evaporate (yikes)
  • Farmers are incredible employees
  • Smiling, laughing, and silly jokes are the remedy to making it through a tough day
  • If one has passion, drive, and a vision, anything can be done (cheesy but true)

Both the LL and Commissary! crew restores my hope in humanity. All intelligent, all beautiful, all compassionate, all talented, all creative, all hardworking. So refreshing. I look up to those I work with and am more than grateful to have been given this opportunity. Lagusta fosters a beautiful little compassionate, unique, thoughtful community of like-minded individuals in little New Paltz that gives veganism a beautiful, decadent, remarkable name and has made my year interesting and exciting

Grateful and Thankful

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HOLLY                                                                                                                                                       Moving off of Long Island to begin working at Lagusta’s Luscious was the best possible ending to my 2016. Although I’ve only been a part of the incredible crew there for about a month, I’ve never felt more at home at my place of work. Everyone that I have met has impressed me with their talents, inspired me with their kindness and compassion, and have made me proud to be a part of something so unique and purposeful. I am beyond excited for my future at this wonderful company and I am extremely thankful to have the opportunity to learn from such lovely people. Every day is a great day and one to be appreciated when you love what you do.

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JENN                                                                                                                                                                I’ve been working here for a short time, since this past August, and I am so fortunate to be here with all of these amazing people making amazing things. Everyone who works here is the coolest ever! Seriously! Not only has everyone here been so good at teaching me new things, but they’ve also just been so great to talk to. I’ve learned so much about everyone here and it’s a true honor to spend so much time with everyone, I’ve really  never felt so comfortable in a work environment. I’ve also met so many locals as well as visitors. This is a unique little town that I’ve lived in for the past five years, and I now feel like a true part of it all. It’s so rewarding seeing custies at the shop or in town telling me how delicious the chocolates are and how much Lagusta’s Lucious means to them. My favorite thing is when people walk into the store and ask “is *everything* vegan?” and I get to say yes and make their day! The past several months have meant so much to me, especially considering how turbulent of a year 2016 has been. Having this safe space to spend most of my time in makes all the difference. It’s sincerely one of the most special things I’ve ever been a part of. All of that sappiness being said, my favorite time in the shop is whenever there are chocolate/caramel/macaron/anything scraps available for my consumption. I’m a real scrap vulture.

CHLOE                                                                                                                                                                 A year ago, just off the plane from Sydney Australia, I never would have believed that I would be making vegan chocolates in “upstate” New York. I certainly would have never believed that I would make caramels that include onions, chipotle and miso! Such wonderful creative things are born here because this shop is full to the brim with the most interesting, kind people willing to challenge that ordinary. I’ve learned so much in my 8 months here about dipping turtles, rolling truffles, making Furious Vulvas. Every day here is different. Whether I’m stabbing away at an impossible block of coco butter or gently picking rose petals there is always something new to learn. In fact, I’m still trying to learn how to go an entire day without getting chocolate on my sleeves. The hard work is truly worth the effort as I get to be around such inspiring loving people and end up creating the most delicious chocolates at the end of the day.

So many high points this year, it’s hard to choose a favorite. I think it’s impossible to beat a surprise Twin Peaks birthday party complete with a log cake made by Adrienne. And when times were tough this year I’ve felt most comforted at the shop with an inflatable tube man dancing outside when I need him most and walls covered in endless comics and quotes that remind me that this is where I belong. I can’t wait to see what next year will hold. Thanks to everyone for letting me be a part of this wonderful vegan chocolate world.

ALEXANDRA                                                                                                                                                  This past year I had the privilege of traveling to volunteer in Guatemala & study/intern/live in Kenya. In Kenya I had the opportunity to live out my life’s dream: seeing elephants live wild and free. What brought me much comfort while I was away was knowing I had more than one family to come home to- home family & shop family. Last year Alexis said our staff was made of people she felt like she waited her whole life to meet, and I could not agree with her more. You are all so special to me.

2016 in the shop was composed of freaking amazing ice cream all summer (including leftovers of Maresa’s macaron ice cream sandwiches oh god), talking about eyebrows, dancing as I sometimes do, an epic caramel burn, birthdays & potlucks, custies & recipes galore, the excitement of Commissary! and the incredible lattes that come with such, and jumping back in during the thick of holiday craziness (the time I actually love most). I get super emotional when I really sit and think about the beautiful bubble that is the shop. I’m so deeply thankful to be part of it and work amongst the best peeps I could ever imagine. When the world is so very dark it is truly amazing to be part of the softness and magic of LL.

KATE                                                                                                                                                                     it was a good year, despite. coming to work the day after the election and being in a shared puddle of grief: a gift, an oddity. everyone putting down their umbrellas and getting to throw sugar at the colossal loss we all felt, getting to get down to business and make sweet things on a day we felt completely, utterly, disgustingly useless. & immediately: we made lots of skulls, but everyone knows about that. the rest of the year: i said “damn” in a shop instagram post and this one lady got real mad. adrienne nailed the chipotle onion caramel on her first try i almost fell over. i ate many scraps of the peanut butter caramel bar. the shop got covered in spiderwebs again. jenn found our halloween tinsel cat in the closet and she came to my birthday party. i got to work alongside of people i love and respect, every single day, no exceptions. fringe: getting to book and host shows at commissary, bringing sammus and adult mom and mary lattimore and long beard and and and and… to town to play beautiful shows. also, at the shop we got the whiteboard. we got a new metroshelf by the couch. lagusta is ordering more vulva molds. it’s the small things, too.

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ALEXIS                                                                                                                                                                It’s hard to reflect on my year at the shop without reflecting on my year as a human being. It’s been another year of incredible growth and change and yet after reading my recap of 2015, things are still so much the same. Comfortable and safe. An amazing group of strong-willed, intelligent, valuable women (and a couple good men!) working hard together.

We invented new recipes, grew to meet the demand of two new businesses, ate so many tacos, celebrated all the birthdays, endlessly discussed cult television, laughed a lot. We added amazing new members to our team and made it through the holiday season with grace and relative ease, constantly testing the limits and never settling for less. 

In 2016 the shop opened doors for me to be an artist again in all my most favorite ways. This summer Lagusta, Jacob and Maresa gave me my first big commission to make all of the mugs for Commissary! and the display case plates for Confectionary, I cooked a weekly soup this winter for some of our staff and customers, Kate and I designed a shop tote bag together.

And just like this time last year I walked through the shop during our busiest days exclaiming to whoever was within earshot and sometimes just to myself, we’re so good at this! This is so great! Everyone is working so hard and so well! I need some coffee!

I think the greatest lesson I took from this year is that you’ll only grow as much as you allow yourself to in any facet of your life. You have to do the work to meet your own demands and rally around likeminded people to push upward. There’s so much brilliance under this one small roof, between our four brick walls, sometimes it’s all too good to be true.

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SARAH JO                                                                                                                                                         My greatest hits on my Lagusta’s Luscious playlist is

  1. Starting work at Lagusta’s. As a grad school student I am so grateful for my days of placing academic papers aside and interacting with our wonderful customers.
  2. Working the front. I am blessed and honored to hear so many incredible stories from our patrons. There almost always seems to be a story associated with our chocolates.
  3. The Lagusta’s team. Seriously, these women are amazing! Everyday I am excited to get to know more about them, their passions, and their world views.

Thank you all for collectively creating an incredible adventure which I get to be part of. Here’s to a new adventure for a new year.

CAM                                                                                                                                                                First job! Senior year! Lots of stress, lots of accomplishments and growth! Working at the chocolate shop has been an invaluable experience and I am so grateful that I have been exposed to this magical, very busy world, full of making and packaging lots and lots of chocolate! It is so amazing to me that I can say that I love everyone I work with.  Looking back at when I started in September, I am proud to say that I have learned so much over these past few months and that my speed at packaging chocolate (especially spheres) has increased exponentially.

TAYLOR                                                                                                                                                          This year I found myself calling my identity and concept of “home” into question quite often. In February when I made the move back to my hometown area, (a decision I made in order to reignite my signature ~zest for life~), I felt confusion and loneliness on a greater scale than ever before. I was riddled with crippling anxiety where I once felt endless inspiration; the creative spirit of the Hudson Valley I was so desperate to rediscover, now lost to me. The fog of self-doubt that had settled over my typical headstrong confidence finally began to lift once I was hired at the shop. At Lagusta’s, I discovered a tribe of women I never knew I was missing, yet cannot imagine my current life without; I found a place of work where my excessive energy, skill for multi-tasking, love of getting my hands dirty, and passion for both veganism and cooking come together. When I feel lost in the place I grew up and despair thinking about the state of the world in 2016, I can find comfort in my work and home at the shop.

ADRIENNE                                                                                                                                                     This year there was so much change; the business expanded and new people were added to the LL family. The best part of the year was the way we all grew together to become a team and a family. This is a place where activists and artists can come together to create beautiful things, and I feel so lucky to be surrounded by people who are passionate about what they do.

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ANNIE                                                                                                                                                                So 2016 was a pretty shit year for the world, but a rather nice one for me, generally. I decided to take a step back from working when I noticed my son was sometimes referring to his grandmother (and primary babysitter) as “mama”. That wasn’t going to fly. So, with a heavy heart I resigned from LL. We had a lovely farewell potluck party and I was sad. Naturally. Felt like I’d only just gotten started, only just started to get the hang of things. But then, a month later, a note from Lagusta: Would I consider working very part time, on my own time/terms to help with the croissant and bialy baking for the brand-spanking-new Commissary?? Hmmm, took all of 10 minutes to say yes. And with that I began sneaking away after the wee lad falls asleep at night to laminate dough and shape bialys for an hour or two at a time. So my year at LL feels mostly like this odd silent version of my previous life working there. Puttering around after hours like a little elf. I get to peek at what the truly busy elves get up to all day and wonder at unfamiliar-looking objects (Is that a special order or just a use-up of some failed experiment? Hmmm.) and try to search out ingredients that occasionally migrate to new locations in the shop or just disappear into the ether. (Where the hell did the extra-gluten flour go?!) It’s been great except that I almost never see anyone which makes me sad because most of the joy of working at LL are the folks that work alongside you. And there are all these new folks that I don’t even know. Ah, the endless marching forward of time. But, I’ll sometimes manufacture a reason to go in during the day and say hello and catch up on gossip and admire new equipment (non-broken rulers!) and hear about different protocols (writing on the white board!) and maybe even find out what some of those new mystery items are. Everyone continues to be awesome and interesting and talented and supportive and I can’t imagine that’s ever going to change but that’s always going to be part of my annual wrap-up. The people rock. They work hard and they have fun. I’m thrilled to be a part of it, even a tiny, secret, little part. And I hope that I get to stay a part of it for a nice long time. Happy end of the year, hope we all survive the next one relatively unscathed…

COMMISSARY!

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ALAN                                                                                                                                                                   In their simplest form the things that top my best of 2016 goes as 🐛🐡🎤👻🐜🤖👽 . These little emojis represent the collective that is Commissary! Total strangers went from sitting at a long table sniffing teas and sampling chocolates to besties slinging dranks and having Robyn dance parties while closing.

Also; Pizza. Fucking. Day. If there was ever an example of how we can turn chaos in a beautiful experience for us and our amazing custies.
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KATHLEEN                                                                                                                                                 Getting to know this bunch of kind, strange, generous, hilarious, hardworking people has been far and away the brightest spot in an otherwise prickly 2016.

In May, I was plopped in the middle of Commissary!, a perfectly teal cafe, surrounded by the warmth of like minded strangers and the coffee scented glimmer of new opportunity.  We have wiggled our way through the magical befuddlement of opening a new business together- the taste tests, early mornings, the whoopsies and the perfect serendipities.  We’ve had a lot of coffee and made a lot of mac and cheese.  And it has all bred so much more growth than I anticipated.
Favorite things include: learning coffee, learning vegetables, learning to be a better me under pressure.  Friendships.  I have developed a far more intimate relationship with an espresso machine than I ever thought possible.  Our work rarely feels like work, but it’s the kind of work that brings that rare and satisfying joy that accompanies pride in your job.  I am inspired by my coworkers,  empowered by my bosses, enamored with our product, and grateful for all of our patient and lovely customers.  All in all, Commissary! has been one of those inexplicable, don’t-know-how-I-landed-here-but-I’m-sure-glad-I-did experiences and I can’t wait to see whats in store in 2017.
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RACHEL                                                                                                                                                                 I started this year with absolutely no idea where I’d end up. I’m so glad it was here!

I love the feeling of never ever dreading coming to work, never begrudgingly doing a task.  I love that I want to go in on my days off just because I miss it. I love talking to Jacob about coffee and also playing 20-questions with him to figure out that we were getting new, better, sink-drain stoppers.  I love talking to Lagusta about food and I am so grateful for the new things I learn every day. More highlights include:
-Coming in to Commissary when the power was out to keep Chrissy company and making shadow puppets on the ceiling
-Improving my knife skills?
-Chopping maybe a hundred onions but still not knowing how to do it in the cool, fast way like in the videos
-Making cat latte art with Sam
-Getting to know regular customers
-Eating some kind of soup every day, or beans, #beansarequeens
-Every single, incredible show that Kate has organized
-Everyones’ transition from strangers to friends
-Flinging a pomegranate aril that was trapped in my scarf onto Adrienne when I came into LL one day
The whole year has been a highlight.  I’m really happy I get to be a part of it.
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ILIANNA                                                                                                                                                               I can finally be proud of my job! Commissary! is the ONLY physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy and supportive work environment that I have been in. Seriously, its amazing to be a part of. Lagusta, from the get-go, has been and continues to be so hands on, patient, and understanding with me as I become more aquatinted and comfortable in the work environment. I was mostly vegan when I started and since working there I’ve been inspired to fully commit to being vegan by my fellow co-workers as well as Lagusta and Jacob! I know that I work at a place that cares for me and my wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of our customers and our environment. I am always talking on and on about my job with friends and family I think it gets annoying! Commissary! is a very engaging environment and I’m excited every time I come to work. I love learning new recipes and it’s kind of the best thing in the world that we serve (and I get to eat) gluten free vegan mac and cheese!!!!

Commissary! was the only place I was able to concentrate and feel calm while I did my homework this past semester. I’d have food, usually greens & beans or a mac and cheese, some tea or coffee and then I’d get to work on the mountain of reading that I had to do. When I finished the semester Kathleen and Chrissy congratulated me and told me they saw how hard I worked they were so sincere and kind it made me want to cry.

One of the best things about my time at Commissary! is being able to work with my co-workers. Alan, Rachel, Chrissy, Sam, and Kathleen are amazing and I’m so lucky to have them in my life!! I have so much love for them and I’ve never felt so welcome and included at my place of work. I see us cultivating a real sense of family and community. It’s an awesome feeling to get through a rush of customers successfully because we worked together so well. I remember the first shift that I worked with Sam and Kathleen, one of the tasks we had was to start de-stemming about a pound of thyme (which took over a week to complete). While we spent a few hours working on the thyme we had an unexpectedly great conversation about our lives and about life in general. I think since our hands were busy/on autopilot it allowed our brains to get into a deeper state of consciousness where we were able to talk at a level that was beyond a simple get to know you conversation and even though we’d just met, we talked like we had known each other for a while. Fine tuning the espresso with Jacob is always a good time and I walk away feeling more knowledgeable and confident that I am serving quality drinks. One of my favorite highlights of my time at Commissary! is Saturday taco nights with Alan after we close! I look forward to it every week!!

I know all of this probably sounds very corny but I mean it, I am so humbled and blown away that I have the privilege of working at Commissary! I feel like I’m where I am supposed to be and I don’t know what I did to get so lucky! I’m excited and really looking forward to what 2017 has to offer us (even though we’ll have a bigoted nacho cheese dorito for a president)!

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SAM                                                                                                                                                              Every moment has felt important, every shift too short, it’s so hard to concisely reflect on so much good, ahhhhh. But I’ll start at the beginning and see where it goes. I joined the team the week after Commissary! opened this May. I could have never prepared myself for how hard I would fall for this place. Joining the LL team, and specifically the comparatively small ranks of Comm, has been a highlight of my year, and probably my life tbh. Working alongside Rachel, Kathleen, Chrissy, Alan, Ilianna, and of course Jacob and Lagusta, inspired me to become the best, most authentic version of myself that I’ve ever been (even though sometimes I still get intimidated by how lovely and brilliant and wonderful everyone is — how are they real people???)

A few weeks after joining the team I heard back about an advocacy job I’d applied to prior – a position at a victim services agency working with kids (what I thought was my dream job). The team was totally supportive and understood that it was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse, so I took the job and cut down to working one weekend shift at Comm. I learned quickly that I had left my totally amazing badass radical safe life-changing job for a difficult uncomfortable hostile life-sucking one. I’ve chosen to stick it out (for now — check back in 2017), but every Saturday Rachel and Lagusta listen to me complain and validate me while I brew coffee and froth nut milk and chop mountains of garlic.

Calm-issary has been my place of solace at the end of every long and draining week and a space for personal growth and healing. The community I’ve found in the LL team is what finally drove me to cut out the last few animal products I’d been using and GO VEGAN! I’ve learned so many new recipes, techniques, and tricks that I don’t even remember how I prepared food before working here.

Okay okay I’m so off track, let’s talk highlights ummmm
-I thought I was a coffee-snob before I started here, but I’ve learned so much more about roasting and ~notes~ and how to tell whether the face I’m making is bc a shot is too sour or too bitter/what to do about it and timing a shot and perfecting the pour over and ~dialing in~

-OMG THE MAC AND CHEESE CASSEROLE. C’MON.

-I truly don’t know how I would have gotten through the Hellpocalypse that was November 9th if not for the tea and chocolate and skulls and “not my presidents” and sense of physical safety. Lagusta opened the space up for community grieving and conversation and honestly is that not the most perfect thing you can imagine on the Worst Day Ever?
-Oh oh and our lovely secret santa potluck holiday party where I laughed more in three hours than I had all year? When Alan bought me the Most Perfect And Thoughtful Gift? And Lagusta gave us all the sweetest present packages? I can’t believe all these people are real.

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-Reading Kate’s zine of the week (and then one or two more) every week.

-The Sammus show — eternal heart eyes (another hat tip to Kate for making that happen)

This year I discovered my boundless love for matcha lattes w/ homemade cashew milk, re-connected with my old flames the pignoli and rainbow cookies (my tiny Italian heart thanks you, Maresa!), and met some of the raddest people I’ll ever know.

I am so thankful that this business exists and am eternally grateful to share my time on this spinning space rock with the people who make all this magic happen. Thank you for teaching me that I don’t have to compromise – I can have my values and live by them and work for them and be supported and encouraged. I’m so looking forward to all of the incr(edible) things 2017 will bring.

CHRISSY            

IMG_2281.jpg                                                                                                                                    kind of crying a little bit thinking about how lucky i am to get to be a part of this magical chocolatey coffeebeaned world. all of it is great. all of it. my coworkers who dance to robyn as we mop the floors at night. the shows, the shows, the shows. thanks for those, kate. crying at Adult Mom and receiving a hug from lagusta, crying at Sammus, crying at Swanning and Mary Lattimore and Guilt Mountain and Long Beard. the magical afterglow feeling you get when you leave a show at commissary and you know there is good in the world and it exists right where you are. every single time a customer brought in their dog. once a bird. never a cat but we did have a couple meows at the glass door sometimes. getting to be around the most incredible people i’ve ever met. having your coworkers be your friends but also your heroes. the zine library! latte art improvement. getting better at cooking by learning from, observing, and be inspired by one of the best vegan chefs in the bizz! how lucky! figuring out that mac and cheese can be vegan and delicious and getting to eat it on my lunch breaks. the beauty that occurs at commissary after hours around candles and tables of lovely humans. being a part of something i believe in. being a part of something that does good things for the world. the morning of november 9th when a woman hugged me over the counter, both of us sobbing. acquiring a home in new paltz and feeling at home in that home. hearing a loud noise and looking out of my bedroom window to see gary the inflatable tube man. getting snuggly in my bed and knowing that lagusta is downstairs making something wild and delicious in the depths of night. hazelnut sugar plum bars. lemon poppyseed macarons. flavor notes, flavor notes, strengthening that damn palette.  ~*~*coffee shop crushes*~*~, pizza day, pickles, when lagusta learned to make memes, fresh local produce weekly! all of its been so good and i am so grateful. 

 

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JACOB                                                                                                                                                             2016 started as a dream on a walk on the beach: what could our future hold? what should we plan for and how do we make sure we’re ready to take that step? Less than a week later those non-existent plans would have to be formulated as we saw what 2016 would bring: Confectionery! and Commissary! Lagusta’s Luscious didn’t just happen, there were no plans, it was as organic and slow and deliberate as can be and allowed us years to find the best path. Confectionery! and Commissary! both went from concept to opening in 4 months…from nothing. To say it was a new (exhausting / exhilarating / terrifying / taxing) experience is beyond an understatement and to see these businesses and spaces become a reality was incredible. I was traveling most every day before we opened the two and was drawing plans, ordering equipment, securing permits, designing logos, creating menus the entire time (while also doing my traveling job.). I’m so grateful to Lagusta, Maresa, Liz (who consulted and trained for Commissary!) and John (our amazing contractor who has built everything we’ve built) for bringing these two businesses to life. For me 2016 was about the month of May when we met, trained, and welcomed into the LL world our new staff, new businesses, and new challenges.

CONFECTIONERY

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CAITLIN                                                                                                                                                         2016 has been one intense year for me,and probably everybody!. Personally, there was a lot change, but good! I moved to Brooklyn, starting training roller derby, and landed the best job I’ve ever had.

Joining the LL team and getting to witness Confectionery come to life has been amazing.

Being the chocolate lover and sugar addict that I am, I knew I was going to be in a happy place surrounded by cookies, turtles & truffles. What I didn’t know was all the love and commitment that was poured in to this business to deliver a top quality product without compromising ethics. It’s been incredibly inspiring to see how much care and respect everyone has for each other, the earth and environment. Since working here I’m learning to be more conscientious with the choices I make and where I spend my money.

I’m incredibly grateful to be part of this amazing team and can’t wait to see what 2017 will have in store  for us ( 😉 bad joke!)

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GENNA                                                                                                                                                              It’s a crazy and special thing to get to be a part of this family after fan girling it from a distance for so many years.

My highlight is getting to help be a part of the crew that has made this little ol’ space on east 9th street a haven for me, my friends, and this family. Having a space to heal, have unfiltered conversations, and eat lots of sugar has been a really wonderful and necessary thing.

Oh, and my favorites of the year have to be the pignoli cookies, that damn churro ice cream mac, croissant caramels, and my lovely “kill your local misogynists” mug from Kate.

KATIE LEE                                                                                                                                                      2016 was rough in so many ways, but being part of the LL crew (NYC, yeah!) made it a lot softer. Here are a few standout moments for me:

-when my shoe strap broke on the way to the shop one morning and I fixed it with bakery twine (and it stayed together the whole day!)
-all of the many various treats from Superiority Burger (soup! TFTs! that perfect apple Brooks gave me one time! those dang hippy wraps!)
-seeing the looks on people’s faces when they realize that everything in the shop is vegan (and also when they realize that everything is delicious)
-befriending so many talented, smart, creative, compassionate, unbelievable people both upstate and down
-the almond rhubarb birthday cake Maresa made for me
-those chipotle caramelized onion caramels, my god
I’m so grateful to have a place in this radical little sugary universe. It’s nice to be here.

VERONICA                                                                                                                                                  *The* highlight is Confectionery opening! It still feels like a dream that I get to work in the sweetest sugar-stocked shop in my favorite neighborhood.

I love my walk from the train station every day, up Broadway a block to Wanamaker Place and then down, east, as it turns into 9th street, down past the man from Veselka unloading their produce delivery, down past Superiority Burger, down to the shop. Meditations in the rhythms of daily life.

I love the vintage wallpaper and the Mitzvah Wall. I love the hazelnut sugarplum bars and the corn macarons especially. I love seeing the excitement people have when they discover every single thing in the shop is vegan.

I love our customers so much!!! They are seriously the best and that is not something I say lightly at all. They really are. I love getting to know our regulars and their flavor preferences, and I also love talking to the people who are only passing through.

I just really fucking love food, the experiences we collect in relation to things eaten, the power of food to inspire and enrich our being as we go through our lives. I absolutely love being able to be a part of that here.

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MARESA

3. Making desserts for Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary Thanksliving.
2. Working real hard for a half day then playing hooky with Kate and Olivia to go tubing on the river.
1. Opening a shop with my best friend.
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❤ ❤ ❤
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nyc
The past:
2015 (more!)
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2014 Highlights from the Lagusta’s Luscious Crew

2014!

Our busiest

wildest

most efficient

most improved

most heart-filled

year yet.

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Sitting here in the cozy shop on the last day of the year, I feel so warm. This sweet year of my little made-up business is enveloping me, a cocoon of all the work we put in and all the chocolates we put out, everything we learned and threw ourselves into.

We didn’t get any huge press this year, like other years.

We didn’t move into a bigger facility or take on any giant-leap-forward loans, like other years.

We just put one foot in front of another.

It felt so good.

Before I get to the highlights from our crew, here are my own little triumphs and victories:

Continue reading

2013 highlights from the LL crew

Our 2012 round-up seems almost laughably quaint compared to the wildness that was 2013. I guess that’s good, right?

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We did a lot of amazing work this year. Here’s my rundown of highlights, and below are even better, more poetic, more personal ones from our crew:

  • Constant technical improvements. in 2013 we really committed ourselves to upping our game, technique-wise. We invested in new equipment and braved the many learning curves associated with it in order to make our products better for everyone. It was tough at times but I’m proud that we did it. Always improving! Or, meliora, as they say in Latin which may or may not have been my college’s motto which may or may not be the only reason I know it.
  • Packaging improvements! In 2013 we got custom thick cushiony pads to protect the chocolates snugly in their boxes, as well as custom shipping boxes. We’re working on transitioning all our packaging to earth-friendly chic kraft boxes, instead of standard white bakery boxes, bleached with dioxin and who knows what else. For a while our friendly local-ish box printing company didn’t offer a kraft box, and we basically pressured them until they did. Now we order thousands of them a year!
  • Selmi and Enrobi: by far the biggest change in our work life came from buying a new tempering machine and an enrober. More about that in February!
  • Those Hazelnut bars. They’ll be back, don’t worry.
  • Donations. I’m so proud that as our business has grown we have been able to support even more amazing groups and causes through chocolate. Here’s a partial list:

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  • Maresa’s macarons becoming the darling of the vegan food world.
  • When we learned that Lucy is a human thermometer, as described (twice) below.
  • When Brendan wowed us with tales of blown sugar, poured sugar, and sugar work flowers he’d made in pastry school.
  • When Samantha’s friends came in to visit her & she got all nervous (it was cute!).
  • When Marena took over shipping & organized our days so well.
  • When after nine years of helping me with logistics & not touching chocolates except to taste them, Jacob’s love for Selmi (read = reluctance to let anyone else use Selmi) turned him into the best mold-filler this shop has ever seen overnight (Selmi deserves a lot of that credit, though).
  • Kate’s Snack Seminar.
  • When Erin made all those candy cigarettes, which took over her life for a week since she was the only one who could make them so good.
  • And of course, CHOCOLATE CALISTHENICS!

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MARENA

Favorite thing I made: Well, I made a lot of boxes. I really like make boxes. Shipping boxes, caramel assortment boxes, truffle boxes, heathen toffee boxes…oh, the heathen toffee boxes… But there is really something beautiful about packing a Locavore truffle assortment into one of Maresa’s porcelain pints–pint, candy pad, truffles, candy pad, truffles, candy pad, cellophane, label, sticker, bow. What a lovely list of steps.
Favorite thing I ate: Staff salad breaks during the summer were pretty fantastic. And when you use a plant potter as a bowl you can make your staff salad deceivingly large. Lagusta made some yellow dressing, it was amazing. Actually that reminds me of the day she made onion rings. My heart grew three sizes that day.
Favorite moment: There was the time Brendan greeted someone who walked in and his voice cracked like he was 12. Lucy & I were out of sight from customers on the couch. She didn’t even need to hesitate, she immediately covered my mouth with her non-soup-holding hand to hide my hysterics while Brendan could see the whole thing happening. I laughed myself to tears for a good ten minutes. Little moments like that are my favorites. The night Jacob was jonesing for a vegan hot dog after Erin & I got some was pretty funny too.
I also really like whenever we get some new product or item in, or even if someone needs a recipe tasted, and we all get called in a circle to try it. When I first started at the shop I sort of kept quiet because I didn’t know anything, but now I feel confident expressing my ideas.
Favorite customers: There’s this dad that comes in with his young son every now and then. He’s got a Long Island accent and the kid runs around the shop reading all the labels on the products, talking a million miles an hour, and asks his dad if they can get it, and the dad always just screams “NO!”. Not in a mean way, more in a, “Someone please help me” way. It’s always pretty entertaining.
JACOB
– the new benches [made by Jacob!]

Selmi x 2
– donuts [made by Tara, vegan, delivered to the shop every saturday!]
– creating the smores bar (toasting the marshmallow!)
– coffee trainings
– “the mangler”! [our new caramel cutter!]
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LUCY

My favorite moments at the shop aren’t ones I can pick out or describe well. They aren’t the biggest moments, or even the most inspiring. I have those—being let into the creative crazy world of our monthly dinners and the sleepless exhilarating accomplishment of every course; our staff trip to Bloodroot; the time I smelt the caramel cooking and knew it was the right temperature even though the thermometer was broken. Those moments are special to me, and I have cut them out of my heart to look at when I feel lost. But they aren’t my favorites.

My favorites are a string of background moments, of elbows touching at the sink and quiet tappings of truffle dippers on tempering machines. Conversations held in between putting away turtles and grinding almonds, goofy voices and hands on shoulders. Times when I felt simple and purposeful. The laughing looks that reminded me to be grateful of the women around me, of Jacob’s coffee obsession/concentration and Brendan’s binder of recipes. This was a year of being around people who wanted to create perfect beautiful things, and of realizing that I was truly one of them. I wouldn’t know how to explain the little flashes of joy and satisfaction threaded through every day, or the wonder of being so exhausted, frustrated and hollowed out at the end of the night. Those moments between tempering cycles and caramel batches that found us all sitting together on the couch eating a hodge podge of leftovers, singing along to a certain song, laughing at some silly joke for too long…I hope these are cemented in my brain forever.

I have felt the kind of love that I think you can only feel for the people that work alongside you–the kind of pushing support of knowing you are all committed to something larger than yourself. Those passing winks, gentle teases, Monster Mash dance parties, little victories and group struggles held me strong while I learned who I wanted to become and what I wanted to feel towards the world. So I guess what I really want to say is Thank You. Thank you Lagusta, Jacob, Maresa, Kate, Erin, Marena, Brendan, Jayme, and Dawn for all the little kindnesses you have shown me while doing this work next to me. Thank you for giving me a place to soften into my own skin.

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SAMANTHA, our lovely high-school intern-turned-actual part-timer!

Making drinking chocolates

Making millions of caramel assortment boxes

The satisfaction of making the perfect size candy pad just by eyeballing it
Trying to make Gelt bags as fast as people were ordering them
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KATE
the year was 2013 and the highlights were thick and if I could list absolutely everything on earth, I would. when the caramel thermometer broke and Lucy finished a batch of apple caramels perfectly just through the smell of it, alone. every time Erin managed to back off an impressive number of molds with almost no chocolate left in the tempering machine: complete perfect efficiency. when Maresa sprinted a package to the post office one minute before they closed. I told her “you’re insane” and I meant it & she just smiled, said her trademark “see ya” as she dashed out the door. when maresa and i would have “new wave wednesdays” and she knew what my favorite new order song was and joined in my constant elation. when jacob makes coffee when jacob talks about coffee when we get to drink coffee, side by side, when jacob became a selmi chocolatier, high standards, beautiful molds. when brendan talked about how much he loves tie dye, when brendan is unafraid of the robot coupe blade. when Marena and I got 67 packages shipped out in one day and the post office cried but we felt completely invincible, walking on air. when Lagusta talked about watermelons for an hour straight when Lagusta made any sort of food when Lagusta could not tell the difference between a lion and a tiger, her endless pursuit of not wasting absolutely anything. when lucy and i worked late on halloween, spiderman and a candy cane cupping anatomical heart chocolates, dancing to the monster mash, playing it over and over. when we would go outside to stare at the moon. when we all were so mice to each other. every macaron i ate, every macaron maresa made. every muppet babies parody, the shop iguana [i.e. the sugar work heat lamp]. when everyone indulged my snack seminar. when I started working, I didn’t know anything. i asked those questions that seem so silly now: “how do you know if chocolate is out of temper,” “how do you dip a truffle,” “how do you know if your caramel is exactly ready,” and the answer is usually: you look, you feel, it becomes instinct. I remember the day I just realized I was doing it all and not feeling nervous about it. the pride in the small things. it always feels like sugar magic and I do feel like a sugar wizard sometimes, my wand in my apron pocket, a line of us at the beginning of the day, gathered up, divvying up tasks, casting the spells, making all of the things. if I could list absolutely everything on earth, I would.

the holidays are upon us here is everything you need to know

Here we go!

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Some relevant information as you plan your holiday shopping:

We will be open regular hours* until December 31, PLUS we’ll be open until 9 PM on Thursdays in December, along with many other downtown small businesses (I think there’s no other kind, right? Wow, how nice is that. Well…there’s the Mobil.).

We will be closed for our annual sabbatical January 1-January 21. We’ll have some great specials happening the week of December 25-31 in order to use up all our inventory, so keep an eye peeled for that.

We have plenty of nice treats for the festive season. Our Winter Wonderland Box is specially made for sharing during the holiday season, and our Solid Chocolate Reindeer are hand-painted with eco-friendly white puffy tails and red noses. Peppermint Bark is back for the season, too!

In the shop we have lots of solid chocolate hand-painted fir trees and will have hand-pulled candy canes and other special hard candy treats made with organic ingredients, molten hot sugar, and lots of care and affection. We’ll also have some of these peeps:

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We’re also doing a LOT of events this holiday season. Here’s the rundown:

THIS WEEKEND!!! Is Crafted, which is pretty much the least-gross holiday craft fair in existence (so many are gross, am I wrong?) and we’re so honored to be a part of it again. We won’t be there ourselves (Which stinks, because it truly is a really nice time) but our chocolates will be enjoying the beautiful atmosphere.

Then it’s onward (December 7 & 8 and 14 & 15) to a brand new fair which looks also not-gross (OK I’m going to stop rating events by their non-grossness now): The Hudson River Exchange Market, where we’ll have a full table packed with holiday treats. It’s in beautiful arty Hudson (home to all the midcentury modern furniture I so lustily covet), so if you live across the river from us it’s a good chance to say hello and stock up.

We’ll also have chocolates at a brand new Vegan Pop-Up Shop-Up in San Francisco on December 7th and 8th which looks really lovely. I wish I could go, sigh. Looks like some amazing stuff!

We’ll also have chocolates at the Indie Narrowsburg Holiday Mart December 7 and 8 in Narrowsburg, NY.

And finally, we’ll be at TWO Vegan Shop-Ups in December in good old Brooklyn, on December 14 and 21st.

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If you want to order chocolates over our website to pick up at any of these events, you totally can, and you’ll save yourself the cost of shipping. Except that we ourselves will only be there to bring you your order at the Hudson Market and the Brooklyn Shop-Up. If you want to meet us at either of those, just order on the website, select “shop pickup” and let us know which day and which market to bring your order to in the “special instructions” box.

As always and ever, Facebook remains the best way to keep in touch with all these happenings, as we are chained to that beast like you would not believe. Instagram remains the prettiest way to keep in touch if you don’t mind a lot of photos of my cats and useless ranting thrown in. Twitter is a rather sporadic place for us, but we’ve got one of those, too.

PHEW THAT WAS A LOT OF WORDS.

Back to chocolate!

xoxo

Lagusta

*Closed Mondays (though we might be open for three Mondays in December–we’ll see how we’re holding up & let you know!)

Open 12-7 Tuesday-Friday

Open 10-7 Saturday-Sunday

October is the coolest month

Hello chocolatey pals!

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Just a quick note to say that we’re doing something really neat in October: I have 31 days of specials all planned out, one for every beautiful fall day to come, all to thank the bestest customers ever (that’s you!) for your wonderful patronage all year.

Some will be announced on our Facebook page, some on Twitter (@lagustabonbon), some on Instagram (Lagusta‘s my name, don’t wear it out), and some will be only for mailing list subscribers (which you can get on by entering your email address at the bottom of this page).

Let the fun begin!