I love to plant seeds. Literally and figuratively. The process of tending to a tiny treasure, watching it develop, grow and evolve, patiently waiting and working towards the moment when it transitions into what it was always meant to become–I find this metamorphosis fascinating and fulfilling–the fundamental process of my gardening, parenting and choosing to homeschool.
I love when one life experience leads to another journey which then plants a seed that leads to research which evolves into passion and results in action. Essentially, this is why I do what I do and why I created this goal of 100 experience adventures for my two daughters. The figurative “seeds” planted by this journey, might develop into something spectacular someday. I just need to be patient. Plant the seeds. Tend to my tiny treasures.
This particular experience, 7 of 100, represents one of those seeds.
We met a lot of passionate people when visiting the Pennsylvania Farm Show last Saturday. (Read about that experience here.) While walking through a crowded aisle of vendors, we sampled chips, dips, pickles, cheese and ghee, but the booth that grabbed my attention was the Stroopie Co. As the woman handed me a sample of a freshly made Dutch Stroopwafel, she mentioned an interesting fact about her company–they hire and provide meaningful employment for refugee women. I immediately asked her if she offered tours and she gave me a card so I could send an email to set something up.
For our 7th of 100 experience adventures, my daughters and I drove to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to visit the Lancaster Sweet Shoppe.
The Lancaster Sweet Shoppe is an adorable and delightful place where the fresh goodies of three local treat makers–Groff’s Candies, Pine View Dairy Ice Cream and Stroopies–can be discovered (and eaten!)
Established in 2008, the Stroopie Co.’s mission sparks social change, the fundamental backbone of the company. As well as making delicious, high quality cookies, the company exists to support and hire refugee women who, after fleeing their homes in countries ravaged by war, natural disasters, poverty and uncertainty, find a safe haven and a chance to start over in Lancaster.
World-wide, 60 million refugees are forced to flee their homelands and each year, the city of Lancaster invites approximately 1,000 of these humans to re-establish and begin a new life in Pennsylvania. Before settling in a new city, some refugees endure living in refugee camps for 12 to 15 years.
Many refugees experience difficult challenges, painful tragedies and separation from family. In a new country, the process of trying to find work proves problematic due to language and cultural barriers.
Husband and wife team, Jonathan and Jennie Groff, became co-owners of the Stroopie Co. in 2010. Their focus on social impact centers around providing meaningful employment for refugee women (and creating an uber delicious cookie!).
**Fun Fact: The refugees are taught English by a certified ESL teacher.
The gracious Jennie met with me and my daughters for almost two hours on the day we visited the candy shop. (She is also the woman who handed me the Stroopie sample at the Farm Show.) Immediately, Jennie’s dedication and passion for refugees and her love of all people shines through her peaceful and welcoming personality.
She is delightful. Her genuine and honest charisma generated a magnetism–and without sounding too weird–I really longed to talk to her all day and be her new BFF. LOL.
Friends, this woman is a world-changer. A mother. A tranquil soul. A peaceful warrior. A seed planter.
I want to be her when I grow up (even though she is younger than me!). The impact her company makes on this world can never be measured–it has the potential to not just change a few lives, but also to change this world. Once a human is given the chance to live in a safe environment and the opportunity for meaningful work, the positive ripples continue for generations to come. The seeds of this business transform lives.
I am reminded of the commonly quoted story of the boy who threw a star fish back into the ocean in the hopes of making a difference–even if that difference was only for one star fish.
Jennie explained that the Stroopie Co.’s dedication to social impact and public transparency practices opened the door for the company to become a Certified B Corporation. A Certified B Corporation (“B” stands for “Benefit”) focuses on the human side of business–measuring what truly matters–social and environmental responsibility, legal accountability and the innovation to solve social and environmental problems.
Jennie also gave us free Stroopies. THANK YOU, JENNIE!
Small batches of Stroopies are made fresh daily on site by the Stroopie Co. , in a cozy and modest kitchen space in the back of the candy shop. A mix of local flour, eggs and cinnamon create the dough and creamy, homemade caramel turns and blends in a large, electrical vat.
An exposed work space and viewing area allows visitors to watch each Stroopie travel from raw dough to completed product. Four dollops of Stroopie dough are placed in a waffle iron for about one minute.
When the cookie comes out of the waffle iron, it is cut in half and made into a perfect circle.
**Fun Fact: Jennie’s husband, Jonathan, designed the machine used to slice and stamp out the perfect circle!
Then, homemade caramel is hand-spread between the two slices, creating a super yummy Dutch Stroopwafel right in the heart of Lancaster, PA! Once cooled, some Stroopies are dipped in chocolate and other goodies or served in the original form. Either way, I have been craving them since we left the shop.
The master Stroopie maker shown in the photos is Mary. Mary left Myanmar and moved to the United States in 2013. She began working for the Stroopie Co. in 2015.
The Lancaster Sweet Shoppe opened this location in 2016, after the Stroopie Co. won The Great Social Enterprise Pitch. WOW! That is AWESOME! (Think ‘Shark Tank’ for local businesses)
**Fun Fact: The Stroopie Co. makes 3,000 Stroopies each day!
The Groff’s renovated the once barbershop space into a simply charming, farm-house style, sweets store, which stylistically benefits from Jennie being raised on an 100 acre Mennonite dairy farm. HGTV should be envious.
Jonathan Groff’s parents own Groff’s Candies and the chocolate morsels fill the glass display cases like tiny jewels.
I love a family-owned business! I also LOVE the reclaimed wood and white marble!
Pine View Dairy Ice Cream fills the space between the chocolate and the Stroopies production area.
**Fun Fact: Stroopies are sold in over 80 local shops and markets!
The relaxing back patio provides a wonderfully fun space to enjoy a warm Stroopie!
Though the girls and I LOVED the delicious Stroopie cookies and will no doubt return for more, the take-away from our encounter with Jennie Groff was PURE inspiration and motivation. This company’s innovation and shift toward social progress is creating a revolution of acceptance, diversity and transformation in small business/corporate America.
Since we returned home, the topic of social enterprise and being a mighty tool for social change continuously fills our family discussions. My daughters are both naturally advocacy-minded, but this experience catapulted their awareness and triggered something that has yet to be realized.
A seed was planted and I look forward to the development and action it might create.
Thank you Jennie and Jonathan for being genuine. For making a difference. For generating change. And, for planting seeds.
“I am only one; but still I am one. I can not do everything, but still I can do something; I will not refuse to do something I can do.” Helen Keller
“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” Jane Goodall
For more information and to order Stroopies online, visit www.stroopies.com
Seriously, order some online. Now.
The Lancaster Sweet Shoppe is located at 141 N. Duke Street, Lancaster, PA, 17602. Visit their website at www.lancastersweetshoppe.com or call 717-869-5955.
For more information about B Corps and social enterprise, click here.
A video of my daughter signing in ASL about our experience can be found below.