This story is part of 1 Minute Meal, a documentary series that uses food to reveal the communities, legacies, dreams, realities and unseen forces that shape life in New York City.
Since 1946, JoMart Chocolates has been crafting all of its chocolates by hand. The business, which has always been a family concern in Brooklyn, grew out of a penny candy operation in the 1920s and eventually became a full-fledged chocolate factory in the 1950s. Since then it has been turning out chocolates, candies and spicy peanut butter cups (a more recent invention) in the South Brooklyn neighborhood of Madison since the 1960s.
Owner Michael Rogak (who we can also thank for those spicy peanut butter cups) refers to himself as the son of a son of a candymaker and signs every e-mail with the phrase “confectionately yours.” He approaches his job with endless enthusiasm and a belief that chocolate can bring joy the world isn’t the only thing he’s inherited from the family line.
His store is home to confectionary equipment dating back to before the Great Depression. Rogak almost never buys new equipment because he disavows innovations in technology that would go hand in hand with letting go members of the chocolate-making team he’s built over the past three decades. While the back of the shop—a homespun den of molds, vats and conveyer belts passing through waterfalls of chocolate—is mechanized, nothing gets made without being sculpted in some way by the hands of its employees.
This level of commitment, of course, doesn’t protect JoMart from the rising costs of doing business. To ensure that the next generation will continue to see JoMart’s name in Brooklyn and throughout the country, Rogak has just signed a deal to merge JoMart with Liddabit Sweets, combining their resources and teams in pursuit of a future that will be more sweet than bitter.
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