Lexington Historical Society uses chocolate celebration to create community, amplify businesses


The Lexington Historical Society is hosting a series of events and programs celebrating the history of chocolate through April 23. Private Collection and Courtesy of the Lexington Historical Society.

Katie Mogg, lifestyle editor

From February until April, the Lexington Historical Society, a nonprofit organization working to preserve and share the town’s history, will host a celebration called “A Taste of Chocolate.” The ongoing event includes tastings, exhibitions and lectures about the history of chocolate and will culminate in a fundraiser April 7 where all proceeds from ticket sales will go toward the organization and its programming.

Lexington is a historically-rich town, a crucial battleground of the American Revolution. The historical society offers tours that delineate battle history, showcase the homes of historic figures and allow visitors to walk the paths of people like George Washington and Paul Revere. But to expand the nonprofit’s clientele beyond United States history buffs, the society is using their ongoing celebration to educate the public about the history of chocolate. 

“The society [wants] to grow its presence both in Lexington and the metro-west area and in the Boston area as well,” said Carol Ward, the executive director of the society. “So I think something like this is rooted in our mission of history and engagement but might appeal to different audiences that maybe wouldn’t come just for a general historic house tour.”

The chocolate industry is a family affair for Ward, she said, so she felt comfortable taking on the responsibility of organizing the celebration. 

Carol Ward’s father, Jack Ward, was the CEO of Barretto Inc., a now-defunct Brazilian supplier that distributed raw cacao to big chocolate companies like The Hershey Company in Pennsylvania or the extinct Baker Chocolate Factory, which was originally founded in Dorchester. 

Ward said her childhood was filled with history lessons about chocolate from her father and chocolate-related memorabilia collected by her mother. So as an adult, Ward considers herself an expert on the sweet commodity, she said. To honor her father after his death in 2008, Ward continuously participates in chocolate-related programming and exhibitions — and “A Taste of Chocolate” is her latest. 

Ward said the celebration’s lectures and demonstrations aim to help people understand chocolate’s long-standing connection to the Greater Boston area and its history dating back to the 18th century.

“During the Revolutionary War, Ben Franklin actually recommended that chocolate be included in each soldiers’ ration packet,” Ward said. “Lots of people over the course of history, and especially during the Revolutionary War, [used chocolate] as actually their breakfast item because there’s natural caffeine.” 

To help bring the three month long celebration of chocolate to life and expand upon Boston’s historical connection to sweets, Jeremy Spindler, owner of Spindler Confections, will join the Lexington Historical Society in their education efforts next Thursday Feb. 24 to teach visitors about Boston’s history of candy manufacturing. 

Spindler Confections, based in Cambridge, is a small business co-owned by Spindler and his husband Jeffrey Myers. Together, they run their seasonal business selling sweets like nut clusters, dips, caramels, dipped fruit and more. But by far, Spindler said, his business’ top seller is the bonbon box.  

Through a three-part visual presentation, Spindler will dive into the heyday of candy production, discuss the factors that led to Boston becoming a major hub for these sweet treats and then conclude with an explanation of the industry’s decline in the city.

“It changes your view of the history of Boston because it was so pervasive. There were so many factories … the smells were in the air,” Spindler said. “A lot of landmark candies were developed here.”

While Ward hopes the historical background of chocolate and other sweets will be enough to attract visitors, she’s putting a timely twist on the celebration by highlighting contemporary local bakeries and chocolatiers at the April 7 fundraiser. 

Stephanie Rizzari, founder of Sweets Bakery, a small business based in Billerica selling customized cakes, cupcakes and other sweets, will showcase her most popular chocolate goods at the fundraiser. 

“I am known for my pistachio chocolate chip, soft-baked cookies. Those are definitely a top seller,” Rizzari said. “I use three different types of chocolate for my brownies. So I think that would be a good option [too].”

For entrepreneurs like Rizzari, who runs her bakery as a self-proclaimed “one-woman operation,” events like “A Taste of Chocolate” serve as crucial opportunities to attract new customers and develop a positive reputation in local towns, she said. 

Rizzari said Sweets Bakery has already garnered a following in Boston suburbs like Billerica, Winchester and Wilmington after the business’ launch in 2020, but she hopes “A Taste of Chocolate” will connect her to the Lexington community and further disseminate her baked goods. 

I feel the number one thing with starting a business that has helped me grow exponentially has been word-of-mouth and just going out and networking at these markets,” Rizzari said. “I think meeting with [the Lexington Historical Society] has been such a good opportunity because I don’t have any ties to Lexington … so I love the idea of expanding into the community.”

Eventually, Rizzari hopes to take Sweets Bakery to Boston by becoming a vendor at marketplaces like Sowa Open Market.

Ward said “A Taste of Chocolate” is the society’s stepping stone toward further diversifying its programming and events. She hopes the society can continue to teach the public about the history of popular foods and drinks. 

Ward said the nonprofit plans on arranging a large-scale event at the Buckman Tavern outlining the history of chocolate, coffee and tea in 2023 in honor of the 250th anniversary of the Lexington Tea Burning

Historic food programming is really interesting and really popular because it shows people that foods that we think of as contemporary have this long history behind them,” Ward said. “It’s just fun. Like, who doesn’t love chocolate?”

While all chocolate-related events end April 7, visitors can continue to learn about the history of chocolate at the Lexington Historical Society’s archives and research center until April 23.