Lola Granola Bar Founder Mary Molina’s Business Thrives in the Country’s Tight-Knit Community

My town consists of  four communities: North Salem, Juengstville, Purdys, and Croton Falls. It’s horse country, but it’s got a small-town feeling, too. From my house in Croton Falls, I can walk to the post office with my kids, then stop in to buy an ice-cream cone or a slice of pizza. I can chat with a neighbor sitting on a bench while the kids buy gum from the deli with the nickels they’ve saved. How many people can walk their children to dance class in a beautiful old schoolhouse?

At night, when there is no traffic on Route 22, I can hear the brook babbling and the coyotes howling. I can hear the hawk cry out, and, occasionally, an owl. We have a stream in the back and there’s a way to get to it through the back of town. We’ll go down there and throw in fishing lines. I love that my kids pass apple orchards on the way to school. In the fall, instead of going apple-picking on weekends, we go during the week and have the whole orchard to ourselves. We play tag in between the trees, picnic, and sing songs. It’s like living in Mayberry. But when that train comes by from Manhattan, you still feel that heart pumping from the City.

We’re renting right now, a pretty Victorian with room for kids and my business. I started my company, Lola Granola Bar, in this house. I cooked the first bars in this kitchen, wrapped and boxed them at the dining-room table. I’d like to buy this house, but my husband doesn’t feel the same way. The driveway overlooks the train station parking lot, so it’s not super-private. But I love it. I grew up in an old home in Orlando, and when I walk in, the house smells of my childhood. It’s a little musty until I open the doors on the first warm day, and when I’m steaming up the place making granola, the sweet smells of cinnamon and honey fill the air. 

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Croton Falls has everything I need. When I started selling my granola bars, the first store I went to was Who’s Cooking?. I walked into town and asked Russell, the owner, if he would buy them. He carries products from small businesses in the area, so he said, “Sure!” Before we got our second car, I’d jump on the train to Katonah, deliver some bars to a store, and be back in time to meet the school bus.

People choose to make the community they want. There are people in North Salem I will never know because they moved here for privacy. But if they want to know us, they will. Anybody who wants to know anybody, we find a way to get together and celebrate life. There are little hometown events people really look forward to: the chili cook-off at St. James Episcopal Church, square dancing in the fall, the tree lighting on Christmas Eve with caroling and hot chocolate. I think most people have lost that sense of being part of a community. I embrace mine. I want to be a part of it, and it wants to be a part of me.

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