Seven Questions For . . . Marina Halpern

One of my favorite things about running The Picture Book Club has been the people it has led me to. Some are old friends who have offered new mentorship and support, some are fellow book people or entrepreneurs whom I've met through my work, and others are visionaries who inspire me from afar. I'm thrilled to introduce a few of them here.

-YiLing Chen-Josephson, Founder, The Picture Book Club


Marina Halpern

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q: What do you do?

I run Padoca Bakery, a year-old Brazilian-inspired bakery on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Our chef, Rachel Binder, and I came together almost 3 years ago to start to develop our menu and test recipes. I can't believe we have already been open for a full year! 

Q: What’s your favorite thing about doing what you do?

Connecting with people is definitely my favorite thing about what I do. A lot of our customers are at the bakery every day and we get to be a big part of their lives. We have seen couples bring their babies in their "kangaroo carriers" last year and those babies are now kids running around the bakery with their favorite Padoca muffin.

Q: What's something challenging about it?

Padoca is at 359 East 68th Street in Manhattan. Make sure to stop by if you're in the neighborhood; they make the world's best chocolate chip cookies!

Padoca is at 359 East 68th Street in Manhattan. Make sure to stop by if you're in the neighborhood; they make the world's best chocolate chip cookies!

Building something from zero away from "home." I grew up in Brazil and, as much as NY has become my home, sometimes I still think I am crazy for doing this in a language other than Portuguese and without having my family around all the time.  

Marina once explained to an interviewer that, in Sao Paolo, "a padoca is a corner bakery, where the owner knows your name. I wanted to recreate that but also with something new." 

Marina once explained to an interviewer that, in Sao Paolo, "a padoca is a corner bakery, where the owner knows your name. I wanted to recreate that but also with something new." 

Sometimes I still face cultural differences at work that remind me of how big this world is, and it forces me to approach the situation from a different angle, which is always challenging.

Q: What is something you’re proud of?

Resilience! It took me 5 visas to finally get a permanent residence in the US and I think it's safe to say that you need a lot of resilience to run your own business in NYC!

Q: Who is someone who inspires you that you know personally?

My father. He finds inspiration in everything, which inspires me to do the same.

He is a big believer in the "blue ocean" strategy, where instead of competing against companies that are creating similar products or services, you should create something completely new and even create a demand if necessary/possible. Just to give an idea, the two startups he is involved with right now have nothing to do with each other or anything he has ever worked with before.

One is an Israeli company named Gauzy in the privacy glass industry. They make windows that allow you to change their opacity at any time and project videos/pictures onto the glass, transforming them into a TV or display.

The other startup is Tonisity, which makes the first isotonic protein drink for pigs. You read it right: he is helping create this sort of Gatorade for pigs that makes them healthier and gives them a much better chance of surviving when they are little.

How can you not get inspired by someone whose mind gets interested in such different topics?

Q: Who is someone who inspires you that you've never met?

Alice Waters. I love to see how one person can empower such great change in restaurants all over the country and abroad when it comes to being sustainable, seasonal, and buying local. 

In one of her interviews she reminds us of how we should go back to "dealing with people and relationships on a human scale." In big cities like NY, it is especially easy to forget about nurturing relationships with the people in our communities, and with everyone who helps keep our businesses alive, so it's a great reminder!

Q: What’s a picture book you remember as a favorite from your childhood?

One of the greatest memories of my childhood is my grandmother reading me Sitio do Picapau Amarelo (translated as The Yellow Woodpecker Farm), a series of books written in the 1920s by Brazilian author Monteiro Lobato. These were books that she read when she was a kid!! Pretty amazing how they are still popular.

The books are often compared to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  They're fantasy stories that describe the adventures of 2 cousins while they explore their grandmother's ranch every summer vacation. I still remember playing games inspired by their endless imagination!

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The Picture Book Club will make a donation to Food Policy Action, the charity chosen by Marina, for every purchaser who mentions this Q+A.