ASchmidt’s Candies reopens for business on Saturday at 11 a.m. after its traditional summer hiatus, just in time for Halloween and Christmas.
There is a remarkable photograph of Schmidt’s from the 1940s capturing a moment in time. Beneath the elevated line, the store’s old neon sign 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 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 could have walked inside and browse the beautiful display cases loaded with jellies, fudge, and cremes.
After emigrating from Germany, the Schmidt family started their shop in 1926, using homegrown 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 Avenue.
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 looking very much the same, going strong 94 years after it opened.
Walk inside and you will find the same display cases, now antiques, and arranged inside the cases you will find the same impressive selection of hand-dipped and homemade candies.
Today, the tradition is carried on proudly by Margie Schmidt, who not only uses some of the very same recipes her grandfather used, but some of his original utensils, including the same marble table he 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 isn’t just the luscious chocolate packages for Valentine’s Day or Easter, nor is it the homemade and hand-pulled candy canes Woodhaven residents proudly buy each Christmas.
Though Schmidt’s Candy’s endurance 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 with the beautiful tile floor, metal scales, 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 at 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, the third generation the Schmidt family 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 dates all the way back 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.