Sustainably Sweet: How one chocolate shop can make an impact


Angel Henriquez

Joy Thaler, owner of The Pod sitting down for an exclusive interview with Tower. She runs the sustainable chocolate shop, The Pod in Dobbs Ferry, less than a 5 minute walk from The Masters School

Matthias Jaylen Sandoval, Opinion Editor

Down the hill from Masters, at 11 Cedar Street in Dobbs Ferry, Joy Thaler, runs a new and sustainable chocolate store, called The Pod. The Pod, a social impact business, first opened on Feb. 7, 2022 so Thaler will soon be celebrating her business’s one-year anniversary. 

At The Pod, Thaler is known for selling a variety of hot chocolates, with sweet, bitter, and even spicy hot chocolate. Thaler also makes her own chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and chocolate bars. The Pod also showcases chocolate from cacao farmers who sustainably grow and make their chocolate at origin.

Before founding The Pod, Thaler was employed at Thomson Reuters, a Canadian media company, working in quantitative analytics. She was building a product that measured the weight of words called the sentiment engine. Through building that product, she was able to work and make connections with many people in different industries, including people in the coffee and chocolate industries. Thaler highlighted a conversation she had years ago, saying, “I made a comment that I was happy for the cocoa farmers because the pricing was at the highest point. And somebody said to me, let me explain to you about pricing of the cocoa industry. 

After that conversation, I spent three years researching the industry and stumbled upon children that were getting beaten with chains, when they were promised bicycles. That is how I began this journey”.

In addition to egregious child labor abuse, many sectors of the chocolate industry engage in economic injustices. Thaler believes in supporting cacao farmers’ businesses and rights by buying their products, both beans and chocolate, directly from farmers. Typically, in the chocolate industry, cacao farmers grow their beans and sell them to large corporations for low and unsustainable prices. Instead, Thaler focuses on buying chocolate straight from the farmers, and she only buys chocolate and beans from farmers she’s made personal connections with, saying, “People are like, Oh, you’re a curator of chocolate, and I try not to get upset about it because I’m not a curator of anything. I have relationships with people whose values I align with and together, we bring their products in.” Thaler has made connections with cacao farmers from all around the world, from places like Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil and more. Thaler said that the cacao farmers didn’t want to just grow and sell the beans to large companies for low prices. They wanted to harvest the beans and make the chocolate themselves. By buying chocolate directly from the farmers, the middle man is eliminated, and The Pod is able to support small cacao farmers who can harvest and make the chocolate at its origin.

I have relationships with people whose values I align with and together, we bring their products in.

— Joy Thaler

Thaler noted how a lot of the chocolate industry can be unsustainable and have a negative impact on the environment. She said. “there’s a group of people that are oftentimes funded by large companies and their role is high yield. Why? Because, high yield oftentimes aligns with high profit. And my understanding is that oftentimes they use hybrid seeds and, those tend to diminish the value of the soil faster, which means that it deteriorates, and that it leads to more landslides, which leads to water pollution.”

 Thaler and The Pod’s practices differ from larger companies’ unsustainable practices by only buying sustainably grown chocolate. Thaler’s suppliers never use any chemicals to grow their chocolate. 

She said, “The people that we purchase from are very transparent about their fermentation processes, and how they don’t use chemicals. It’s just not where they come from. It’s just not how they’ve been raised and taught. So you can count on these smallholder farmers upholding that.” 

By buying only sustainably grown chocolate, Thaler and The Pod also promote growing methods that are healthy and sustainable for our environment.

One unique feature of The Pod is its art gallery. The Pod’s art gallery showcases work from local artists, where they’re able to share and sell their art. Different types of visual art are displayed at The Pod’s gallery like drawings, paintings, and photographs.

Whenever a work of art is sold at the Pod, 70% of the profit goes back to the artist and 20% of it goes to mental health and wellness organizations and the other 10% goes back to The Pod.  

So far, The Pod has donated to the John Kelly foundation, (JCK)  a local organization, based in Dobbs Ferry, that works to improve mental health and wellness in today’s youth. Thaler hopes that the art gallery will inspire people to use their creative expression to process, heal, connect, and empower one another.

Joy Thaler has been able to successfully host events at The Pod in the past like a Music Meditation and Mindfulness with a professor from the local Mercy College and a roundtable discussion event talking about the decolonization of chocolate, but more community events are in The Pod’s future goals. Thaler said. “We’re a community space, I like to look at us as a community space first, before a chocolate manufacturer.” Thaler really encourages the local Dobbs Ferry and River town communities to visit The Pod and bring their ideas for future community events.