Chocolate Industry

Lexington Historical Society uses chocolate celebration to build community and amplify business

From February to April, the Lexington Historical Societya non-profit organization working to preserve and share the city’s history, will host a celebration titled “A taste of chocolate.” The ongoing event includes tastings, exhibits and talks on the history of chocolate and will conclude with a fundraiser on April 7 where all proceeds from ticket sales will go to the organization and its programming.

Lexington is a historically rich city, a crucial battleground of the American Revolution. The historical society offers guided tours that trace the history of battles, feature the homes of historical figures, and allow visitors to walk the paths of people like George Washington and Paul Revere. But to expand the nonprofit’s customer base beyond U.S. history buffs, the company is using its ongoing celebration to educate the public about chocolate history.

“The society [wants] to grow its presence in both Lexington and the West metro area as well as the Boston area,” said Carol Ward, executive director of the company. “So I think something like this is rooted in our story and engagement mission, but could appeal to different audiences who might not just come for a general tour of the historic house.”

The chocolate industry is a family affair for Ward, she said, so she felt comfortable taking on the responsibility of hosting the celebration.

Carol Ward’s father, Jack Ward, was the CEO of Barretto Inc.a now-defunct Brazilian supplier that distributed raw cocoa to major chocolate companies like The Hershey Company in Pennsylvania or the now defunct Baker Chocolaterie, which was originally founded in Dorchester.

Ward said his childhood was filled with chocolate history lessons from his father and chocolate-related memories gathered by his mother. So, as an adult, Ward considers herself an expert when it comes to sweet products, she said. To honor his father after his death in 2008, Ward continually participates in chocolate-related programs and exhibitions – and “A Taste of Chocolate” is his latest.

Ward said the celebration’s lectures and demonstrations were meant to help people understand chocolate’s longstanding connection to the Greater Boston area and its history dating back to the 18th century.

“During the Revolutionary War, Ben Franklin actually recommended that chocolate be included in every soldier’s ration packet,” Ward said. “Many people throughout history, and especially during the Revolutionary War, [used chocolate] as does their breakfast because it has natural caffeine.

To help bring the three-month celebration of chocolate to life and expand Boston’s historic connection to sweets, Jeremy Spindler, owner of Spindler Confectionerywill join the Lexington Historical Society in their education efforts next Thursday, February 24, to teach visitors about the history of candy making in Boston.

Spindler Confections, based in Cambridge, is a small business jointly owned by Spindler and her husband Jeffrey Myers. Together they run their seasonal business selling sweets like nut clusters, dips, caramels, fruit dips and more. But by far, Spindler said, his company’s best seller is the candy box.

Through a three-part visual presentation, Spindler will dive into the heyday of candy production, discuss the factors that led Boston to become a major hub for these candies, and then conclude with an explanation of the industry’s decline in the city.

“It changes your view of Boston history because it was so pervasive. There were so many factories…smells were in the air,” Spindler said. “A lot of iconic candies were developed here. “

While Ward hopes the historical context of chocolate and other sweets will be enough to draw visitors in, she brings a timely twist to the celebration by showcasing contemporary local bakeries and chocolatiers at the April 7 fundraiser.

Stephanie Rizarri, founder of Confectionery Bakerya small Billerica-based company selling personalized cakes, cupcakes and other sweets, will showcase its most popular chocolate products at the fundraiser.

“I’m known for my pistachio chocolate chip, chewy cookies. They are definitely bestsellers,” Rizarri said. “I use three different types of chocolate for my brownies. So I think that would be a good option [too].”

For entrepreneurs like Rizarri, who runs her bakery as a self-proclaimed “one-woman operation,” events like “A Taste of Chocolate” provide crucial opportunities to attract new customers and build a positive reputation in cities. local, she said.

Rizarri said Sweets Bakery has already drawn followers in Boston suburbs like Arlington, Winchester and Wilmington after launching the business in 2020, but she hopes “A Taste of Chocolate” will connect her to the Lexington community and will further distribute its bakery products.

I think the number one thing in starting a business that helped me grow exponentially was word of mouth and just getting out there and networking in those markets,” Rizarri said. . “I think meeting [the Lexington Historical Society] has been such a great opportunity because I have no connection to Lexington…so I like the idea of ​​expanding into the community.

Eventually, Rizarri hopes to take Sweets Bakery to Boston by becoming a seller at markets like Sowa Open Market.

Ward said “A Taste of Chocolate” is the company’s springboard to further diversify its programming and events. She hopes the society can continue to teach the public about the history of popular foods and drinks.

Ward said the nonprofit plans to hold a large-scale event at Buckman’s Tavern telling the story of chocolate, coffee and tea in 2023 in honor of the 250th anniversary of the Lexington Tea Burn.

Historical food programming is really interesting and very popular because it shows people that the foods that we think of as contemporary have this long history behind them,” Ward said. “It’s just fun. Like, who doesn’t love chocolate? »

Although all chocolate-related events end on April 7, visitors can continue to learn about the history of chocolate at the Lexington Historical Society’s archives and research center until April 23.