NORTH HAVEN – “I want people to feel like they’re walking into our house,” says Carol Asprelli motioning to family photos on the wall and familiar sweets in the case. “My grandmother’s clove cookies, lots of my grandmother’s recipes.”
Welcome to Love, Lera Bakery, a new sweet spot in North Haven filled with personal stories, opened for a meaningful reason.
“We have a special needs daughter and we knew at the age of 22 she would transition out of school and there’s limited employment for special needs adults,” says Asprelli. “We looked at some businesses we could possibly buy that were already open but she really likes to bake with me.”
“I like baking triple chocolate chip cookies,” says Lera with a smile.
Asprelli, who taught high school students for 35 years, is taking on this new venture, employing people with disabilities. Steven Mazzacco was Lera’s prom date.
“He can really do it. He’s back of the house, front of the house, there’s not a job Steven can’t do,” says Asprelli. “Honestly, he’s fabulous.”
“The customers love to see me smile. It brightens their day. Sometimes it makes me want to cry,” says Mazzacco who bakes oatmeal raisin cookies in honor of his dad who passed away last year. “He would sample it along with everyone else, he would love my baking.”
The name of the bakery represents the spirit of a young woman, adopted with her sister from a Russian orphanage in 2001.
“Even if she gave you a gift and a card even though she just met you, she would put, ‘Love, Lera,'” says Asprelli. “So when you come in and buy a brownie, buy a cookie, it’s a gift from Lera, it’s really made with love.”
A bakery with a special mission…a testament to a workforce that’s social and productive.
“When I have days off, I always say I’m bored,” says Mazzacco.
“There’s no tip jar, the tip is come back and visit us again, that’s the tip,” says Asprelli who wants to employ even more people with special needs. She hopes the bakery serves as a model for other businesses.