By Naeisha Rose
The Madelaine Chocolate Company, a Far Rockaway business that was established nearly 70 years ago and was one of the largest manufacturing employers in Queens, faced an uncertain future after it was flooded during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
But thanks to a group of lawyers that has represented it for decades, its business has been restored and the company is delivering sweet treats this Easter.
The chocolate company, known for wrapping its chocolate delicacies in colorful and bright shiny foil, was founded in 1949 and employed 450 individuals at its height before the hurricane. During Sandy, however, it sustained $50 million in damage to its two plants, which covered 200,000 square feet.
Six years later its business has recovered and its chocolate production is rising.
“I and the firm have represented Madelaine Chocolate since 1984,” said Jeffrey Citron of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP, the company’s co-managing partner. “The company was founded by Holocaust survivors and … we have represented three generations.”
The founders were brothers-in-law, Henry Kaye and Jack Gold, who came to Manhattan in 1946 and learned the art of chocolate creation and the workings of the chocolate industry, according to Madelaine’s website. The relatives later went to the Netherlands and stumbled upon new mold designs and techniques for their confections, and in Italy, they discovered beautiful foils that have become the signature of their company.
In their tiny Manhattan loft, the two men started making holiday-themed chocolates and eventually started producing miniature chocolate eggs in the vibrant foil packaging in 1954. The company skyrocketed from there.
The Madelaine Chocolate Company outgrew the loft and had to be relocated to a larger factory in Brooklyn, but even that space became too small, so the founders settled at 96-03 Beach Channel Drive in Rockaway Beach, where they remain to this day.
“When Sandy hit, they were located one side on [Jamaica] Bay and one side near the [Atlantic Ocean],” said Citron. “The buildings were literally underwater.”
Four feet of seawater, to be exact. The flooding destroyed machinery used to produce and wrap the chocolate, which most prominently included Easter bunnies and eggs, according to Citron spokesman Patrick Rheaume.
Representatives of the family-owned business considered moving to other states to start anew, but ultimately they did not want to leave New York City or their employees, most of whom live in Queens. With the help of the DHC lawyers, who have expertise in government relations, it was back in the borough for good.
“They felt committed to Queens,” Citron said. “They have an affinity to their employees and wanted to put their people back to work. Most of their manufacturing employees were local.”
The law firm went to work and was able to secure $13.2 million in hurricane relief funds on the federal, state and local levels, $6 million in tax credits from the state, a $250,000 grant from National Grid and $18 million in loans from the federal Small Business Administration.
The company currently employs 250 workers, who will make the beloved treats again this holiday season.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose