CROTON FALLS, N.Y. - Mary Molina wrapped up some of her homemade granola bars in cellophane and stuck them in her husband Ernie’s lunchbox. Ernie offered one to a co-worker, then somebody else wanted a taste, and suddenly the bars were so popular that Mary decided to go into business.
“I called it Croton Falls Granola,” she said, “But people kept asking for Lola Granola, so I changed the name.”
Lola is Molina's 5-year-old daughter and Lola’s bar is cranberry and almond based. Enzo, 7, Ellie, 9, and Ruby, 4, also have bars named for them. There are four flavors in all.
Commercial granola “usually has soy in it, and my kids are allergic to soy,” said Molina. So she started mixing up her own recipes. She buys her oats from Mrs. Green’s, other ingredients from Trader Joe’s, and gets her honey from the White Oak Apiary in Brewster. There is no wheat, no soy and no artificial sweeteners.
“My mother and I used to cater small events sometimes,” she said, “so I knew a little bit about it. And my husband went through a chef’s program. We’re foodies.”
After going through the rigmarole of establishing a business entity, Molina began to hand out free samples.
“I got a lot of support from friends,” she said. “One friend would go out and buy three bars. Then she’d hand one to the person in front of her and one to the person behind her.”
The very first store to stock Lola Granola bars was Who’s Cooking? in Croton Falls. Now the bars are available at Hygrade, Harvest Moon and the Country Farmer as well. In fact, Lola Granola bars and loose granola packages are now available at 14 venues along the 684 corridor, including Noka Joe’s and Perks in Katonah.
“When our cellular phone business failed some years ago, we had to go to social services, so I know what it’s like to need help,” she said.
Therefore, she makes a point of regularly preparing granola bars for the Westchester Food Bank’s Backpack program and also donates a percentage of her proceeds to Feeding America.
This month, Molina will be moving her business to a larger facility, where she plans to produce some new flavors.
“I’d love another baby,” she says, “but I’m not going to wait for that to name the new bars.”