Overlooking Lake Austin, Mozart’s Coffee has been a local institution for more than 28 years — longer than I myself have lived in the city. When I saw the company pay tribute to my culture by offering an Eid box this past Eid al-Fitr, I was delighted. That kind of recognition feels special, and you don’t realize it until you see it.
During the coronavirus pandemic, my fellow Muslims and I already have spent Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr in relative isolation. Now we’ll do the same for Eid al-Adha, which will be celebrated on July 31. So, Mozart’s new box to celebrate this holiday is especially welcome.
Eid-al-Adha is a day of celebration for the Muslims marking the completion of Haj, a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to the Kaaba, the house of God in Mecca. It is the day Muslims honor the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son in obedience to God. We dress up, socialize, celebrate and are out and about as a family, which will all be toned down because of the pandemic. Fortunately for us, the Eid box and the inviting open-air deck of Mozart’s offer a safe option.
Mozart’s specialty Eid box is a solid wood crate with the letters of their logo branded on one side. It contains scones, quiche, a grand macaron trio, sandwiches, shortbread cookies, tarts, a campfire mug, whole-bean coffee and tea. Mozart’s says it can accommodate special requests if boxes are ordered two days before pick-up. The boxes cost $150 and can be ordered at mozartscoffee.com.
For Ken and Anastasia (Stacey) Leonard, Mozart’s owners, offering the box felt like a "natural progression of who they are." They say they did not expect the level of gratitude they received in return from the local Muslim community.
When life first slowed down during the pandemic, the Leonards had time to think. "One thing COVID did was that so many neighbors became regulars and talked about needs," says Stacey, explaining how the idea took shape. "COVID innovations came about because everybody had more time to pay attention and have conversations without any distractions. The Eid box was born out of a desire from the community — and it was fun."
"I’ve learned never to underestimate the power of recognizing groups," says Ken. "We have many South Asian, Middle Eastern, Arab and Muslim customers," Stacey adds. "We are proud of them (celebrating) while practicing social distancing."
Mozart’s offered the Eid al-Fitr box right before that holiday on May 23. "We reached out to people and said, ‘Our deck is your deck if you need to be together,’" Stacey says. The coffee shop also served Eid chai lattes.
News about Mozart’s Eid box came my way through a WhatsApp group formed in my community to cope with fears of the coronavirus. I went to Mozart’s website, and information about the box was front and center, clear as crystal. I wasn’t alone in my gratitude. The Leonards say they received so many kind notes for their "willingness to not be scared" to celebrate Ramadan and Eid. Ken says he sees offering products for diverse groups as a matter of decency.
Mozart’s is not alone among local businesses in marking Eid al-Adha, though it might be the most prominent. Austin chocolatier Maggie Louise Confections started recognizing Eid last year.
"America is just different now," says CEO and creative director Maggie Louise Callahan, whose Instagram account featuring her eye-catching chocolate boxes has more than 71,000 followers. Though the chocolatier’s brick-and-mortar East Austin location is temporarily closed because of the pandemic, its online business is thriving.
"We do not just do Eid, but also Diwali, Hanukkah," Maggie says. The shop’s Eid chocolates are shaped like a crescent and star, following typical Islamic motifs.
Meanwhile, Food Network host Ali Khan of "Cheap Eats," an Austin local, offered an idea for families making their own celebratory food. On Instagram, he wished his followers a happy Eid al-Adha with a seekh kabob recipe using Wagyu beef from local butcher Longhorn Meats.
During a time of tumult, messages of inclusion are all the more welcome.
Follow Sumaiya Malik on Instagram at @SumaiyaSaidThis.