I spoke last week with Fany Gerson, founder and CEO of La Newyorkina, a Hispanic-owned and operated small business based in New York. Her mission is to “share the delicious sweetness of Mexico and its rich culture.” Her products, from soup to ice cream, are simply delicious. Her story is even more compelling.
Gerson grew up in Mexico City, in love with food. Her first memory is of chocolate truffles. She persuaded her parents to allow her to attend cooking school in Mexico, then she came to the U.S. to the prestigious Culinary Institute. On her return home, she wrote My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats, a cookbook nominated for the James Beard Award.
She started at the bottom in the restaurant business, as the assistant to the chef at Rosa Mexicano focused on desserts. She got the entrepreneurial bug and began mixing ice creams in a small, rented kitchen from midnight until 5 am. She used only ingredients from Mexico, from mango to chili to hibiscus. Finally, she was ready for her debut, which came at the Hester Street Fair in Soho. She prepared 900 palettes of ice cream which sold out in a few hours. She invented the brand, La Newyorkina, and began to operate two pushcarts on the High Line walking path. Eventually she parlayed that into a brick-and-mortar store on Sullivan Street in Soho.
Last week she had to shutter the store because her business had declined by 90 percent due to the pandemic. She is unable to sell any longer on the High Line as health authorities do not want crowds around food stations.
Does she give up? No way. She invented a Mexican Passover meal, with matzo ball soup with avocado, lime and cilantro and gefilte fish with tomato-based sauce. She is selling her ice cream pops through Whole Foods. She is delivering Mexican style meals such as pozole (hominy) soups. Her famous line to me, “People are tired of take-out and they don’t want to cook. We are the perfect solution, the in-between product, which you can customize or serve when we arrive.”
It is important that all businesses focus on diversity and inclusion in their hiring and supply chain, but we must also support minority-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs at every level. Gerson is not alone in facing these challenges. The U.S. Labor Department reported that Hispanics saw the biggest monthly increase in their jobless rate in December, rising from 8.4 percent to 9.3 percent. Now is the time for larger companies to extend a hand to these entrepreneurs. My wife, Claudia, who runs the We Are All Human Foundation, has compiled a list of Hispanic-owned businesses that Edelman will patronize in coming months for gifts, at-home meals and other services. I ask all readers of my blog to do the same. We can make a huge difference. Besides, you will love paletitas borrachas (boozy pops), churros, chamoyadas and so much more.
Richard Edelman is CEO.