It is a remarkable photograph, capturing a moment in time many years ago. Beneath the elevated line, the store’s neon signage promises soda and candy. Look closely in the window and you’ll see an assortment of boxes of chocolate and candies on display.
It is an old picture, taken back in the 1940s when cobblestones covered the street and trolley cars rolled up and down Jamaica Avenue. If you were standing across the street the day that picture was taken, you’d be able to walk inside and browse the beautiful display cases loaded with jellies, fudge and cremes.
After emigrating from Germany, the Schmidt family started their shop in late 1926, using home-grown recipes for making chocolate and hard candies. The chocolate was hand dipped and made on-premises by Grandpa Schmidt in the basement of the store at 94-15 Jamaica Ave.
And if you were to walk into that basement, you would find Grandpa Schmidt hard at work making caramels and dipping chocolates and mixing hot candy on his big marble table, readying it to be pulled into candy canes or ribbons or other delicate shapes.
Grandpa Schmidt wasn’t alone on Jamaica Avenue – Buck & Edebohls, The Muller Brothers, Meyer’s, Neuenburg’s, Grader’s – all were popular confectionery stores in Woodhaven at the same time. But one by one, for one reason or another, the old-fashioned candy stores and soda shops began to disappear.
If you stand near where that picture was taken on Jamaica Avenue today, you won’t see the cobblestones or the trolley cars, but you will see Schmidt’s Candy, still looking very much the same and still going strong 90 years after it opened.
Walk inside Schmidt’s Candy today and you’ll find the same display cases, now antiques, and arranged inside the cases you’ll find the same impressive selection of hand-dipped and homemade candies.
Nearly 90 years later, the tradition is carried on proudly by Margie Schmidt, who not only uses some of the very same recipes that her grandfather used, she actually still has some of his original utensils, including the same marble table that Grandpa Schmidt used to make the hard candies. It is this adherence to tradition and the “good old days” that residents of Woodhaven are so proud of.
And it is not just the luscious chocolate packages for Valentine’s Day or Easter that residents are proud of, nor is it the homemade and hand-pulled candy canes they buy each Christmas. Though the endurance of Schmidt’s Candy can be attributed to the quality of their product, what makes Schmidt’s truly unique is the feeling you get when you walk through the front door.
It’s like walking back in time. The beautiful tile floor, the metal scales, the display cases – these features of Schmidt’s Candy aren’t merely old-fashioned; they’re old, they’re original and they’re beautifully preserved.
Margie Schmidt grew up around the store, and gladly talks about the old days, sharing tales of tasting freshly made candies and learning the trade. Her father had other hopes for Margie and encouraged her to become a pharmacist, but after a year in St. John’s University she decided it wasn’t for her and sought a different destiny.
When her father passed away at the young age of 64, her mother still had bills to pay and since Margie knew how to make the chocolate and the candies, she stepped in to fill the void. Over 30 years later, she’s still making the chocolates and the candies, now the owner of Schmidt’s Candy, the third generation Schmidt to make and sell chocolate and candy on Jamaica Avenue.
Woodhaven has quite a few businesses with a number of years under their belt. Manor Delicatessen, which sits directly across the street, is about as old as Schmidt’s. Popp’s Restaurant opened in 1906. Walker Funeral home goes back to the late 1800s, as does Ohlert-Ruggiere. And Neir’s Tavern stretches back all the way to 1829.
But Schmidt’s is unique in that there is a direct line of ownership over so many decades within the same family, from Grandpa Schmidt, to his son Frank Schmidt, to his granddaughter Margie, who carries on the tradition that says hard work makes for great candy.