When a longstanding neighborhood business suddenly closes its doors, it can feel like saying goodbye to an old friend—and leave you wondering what happened to the business owners.
In the case of former Sprint store owners Ernie and Mary Molina, the end of one business led to the start of something more rewarding.
The Molinas abruptly closed their 10-year-old Bedford Hills shop in January and shut the doors of a second Sprint location in Somers.
“We closed our businesses because the supplier we were using had stopped paying. We had over $60,000 in discrepancies so we had to make a choice to lose everything – absolutely everything – or to try to restart,” Mary said.
It didn’t take long before their entrepreneurial spirit led them back to business ownership.
“Ernie found a job working in sales, and one day he asked me to pick up some granola for him to take to work. I went to the natural food stores but all the granola I found was full of soy and natural rice fillers or artificial ingredients and sweeteners,” she said.
Believing she could improve upon the available granola options herself, Mary began researching recipes and asking family members for advice. Then, using local ingredients, she made her first batch and sent them to work with Ernie.
“When Ernie came home, he said ‘These are the best things I’ve ever tasted,'” Mary said.
Just like that, the Molinas were back in business. They launched Croton Falls Granola in April, but this time, they decided they wanted to use the business to give back to the community. The couple is dedicating 10 percent of their profits to stopping juvenile hunger locally.
Read more about this local granola company with a social conscience:
Patch: Tell us about your granola.
MM: My granola is made of all natural, local ingredients and comes in four varieties: Lola Granola (bars made with almonds and cranberry), Ellie Granola (bars made with dates and cashews), Ruby Granola (nut-free bars made with cranberries) and Enzo’s New York City Nuts (loose granola that was inspired by the nuts from the street vendors down in New York City).
Patch: Cute names, how did you come up with them?
MM: When I was making my first batch for Ernie’s lunch, I wrapped them up and labeled them Lola Granola, just because it rhymed with my daughter’s name. I thought it would be funny when Ernie opened his lunch bag. Then when we started the business, I named them all after my four children.
Patch: Exactly how local is your granola?
MM: In addition to my granola being made locally in Croton Falls, I buy my honey from White Oak Apiary in Brewster, my oats from Dutchess County and my cranberries from Massachusetts.
Patch: Where can we buy your granola?
MM: I just got the phone call that Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard (formerly Outhouse Orchards in North Salem) plans to showcase my granola at an upcoming event! I’m already in in Katonah, Kisco Farm in Mount Kisco, in Ridgefield, in Chappaqua, Who’s Cooking in Croton Falls and The Country Farmer in North Salem.
Next I plan to target in Brewster – that’s our favorite place to have breakfast on Sunday Mornings – and in Katonah.
Patch: What’s your vision for the future?
MM: I think I can be all along the East coast, in about 12 states of the Northeast by the next year.
Patch: Where does all of your entrepreneurial acumen and drive come from?
MM: Growing up, my father had his own used car business, and after my father died, my mom started her own cleaning service. While I didn’t necessarily think I wanted to own my own store, I always knew I didn’t really want to work for someone else.
And Ernie always had a sense of business and sales. His mother tells this story that when Ernie was in first grade, he started selling pesos from Chile (his native country) for a quarter. Ernie is the Croton Falls Granola sales force.
What made you decide to donate to Feeding America?
MM: We didn’t really choose Feeding America. We didn’t set out to donate to any charity, but we ourselves had overcome some difficult financial times earlier this year.
Ernie was watching a program hosted by Al Roker on Feeding America, and it moved him so much that he said to me, “We have to give back somehow.” Since it really touched Ernie, we decided to make Feeding America the charity through which we would work.
Locally, Feeding America works through the Food Bank for Westchester in Millwood, where we are donating 10 percent of our profits; we are also donating about 30 bars a week right now, and we help them pack their weekend backpacks that are filled with individual servings of food that are given to local children so that they will have something to eat over the weekend.