Mary Lyski's spicy social enterprise provides comfort to those in need.
When Mary Lyski closed the door on her Southern-inspired Short North restaurant, Double Comfort, in spring 2017, she realized a window was already open. She quickly pivoted toward building a charitable line of spice blends and hot sauces called Double Comfort Foods, which made it onto shelves at local retailers that same fall.
Then and now, Double Comfort’s business model is dedicated to raising money for local food pantries. Its charitable advisory board determines which nonprofits will receive the company’s net profits each year.
“I had a strong affinity for what Mary was trying to accomplish early on, having a company focused on ending hunger,” says advisory board member Paul Haggard. In 2018, the organization helped fund 110,000 meals locally. Recently, Double Comfort announced that this year’s proceeds will support the work of Neighborhood Service, Inc. food pantry. “We try to choose based on how well we think we’ll be able to help,” says Lyski, adding one important criteria for the charities they support: “Are they teaching people to fish in addition to giving people fish?”
Lyski’s quick turn from restaurant to retail was thanks in part to a strong customer base that was seeking her restaurant’s recipes and encouraged her to bottle her signature spice mix and hot sauces. With a focus on small-batch, artisan offerings featuring local ingredients whenever possible, she began bottling three sauces and her Soul of the South spice blend, the foundation of Double Comfort’s fried chicken recipe.
Most recently, in response to the craft cocktail boom, Lyski created a variation of Soul of the South called Three Sheets, a cocktail rim spice blend for bloody marys. Its smoky, salty flavor won first place in the 2019 Fiery Food Challenge in Irving, Texas, one of eight national awards that Double Comfort’s current line of products has won.
Also new this year, Double Comfort is partnering with BrewDog USA, which will offer its sauces at BrewDog’s local brewpubs. “Hot sauce is fun. It feels good doing it, and we’re helping people’s money work twice as hard,” Lyski says.
Order online or find a list of retailers at doublecomfortfoods.com; follow Double Comfort on Facebook and Instagram @doublecomfortfoods.