NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Margie Schmidt comes from a line of candy makers.
She started as a candy apprentice to her father, who learned the craft from his father, founder of Schmidt’s Candy in 1925.READ MORE: Juvenile Detained While Riding Bikes With Group In Perth Amboy, Prosecutor's Office Investigating
“It is steeped in tradition, and we still do everything the way grandpa did it,” she said.
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Tin chocolate molds shaped like picnic baskets and Christmas trees date back ninety years, as do the wood-paneled walls and white tiled floors.
In the basement, Schmidt makes homemade jellies, marshmallows, and caramels to be dipped in vats of melted dark, milk, and white chocolate.
“How many pieces, all through my ten fingers,” she said. “And one at a time, which is why I’m here til one in the morning.”
During the holiday season, she makes candy canes, hand-stretching and kneading sugar, water, and peppermint extract into imperfect cane shapes. Sometimes the red color bleeds into the white, turning the candy canes pink.
“Nothing is perfect,” she said. “All the candy, because it’s handmade, are different sizes and shapes. It’s not going to be a uniform look. You’re not going to get it in the pre-layered packaging with the descriptions over it because it’s not machine-made into a form.”
Her customers don’t mind.
“Most people say, ‘Marge, I don’t care about the box. I want your candy.’ So that’s the highest compliment, and it keeps me going,” she said.
What keeps her fans coming back? The difference, she says, is in the ingredients. She aims to use the best quality possible and doesn’t cut corners.
“Caramel should be made with heavy cream and milk, not water,” she said. “You taste the difference.”
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While the occasional family member will drop in to help answer the phone, Schmidt is the lone full-time employee, handling everything from production to delivery. During the holiday season, she works sixteen-hour days.
“I have the summers off, so it’s the trade-off,” she said.
A 90-year-old business is a rarity in New York City. How has it survived?
“Grandpa bought the building in 1929. If he didn’t, I probably wouldn’t be here,” she said. “Just as price goes, we’re holding our own. It’s a luxury item, but it’s still at $18. It’s not $36 a pound like some other stores are, so we’re trying to hold on.”
When former Woodhaven residents come to visit, they’re relieved to find her shop still standing.
“They come back and say, ‘Wow, Schmidt’s is still there? Well, that’s good.”
Schmidt’s role in its community goes beyond purveyor of ribbon candy and caramel delights.
“Every day, I know it’s a quarter to three because the door opens, and the kids from the local school come in,” she said.
She pays part-time student volunteers in chocolate.
“There’s assorted nieces and nephews, neighborhood kids,” she said. “You support the neighborhood, the neighborhood supports you.”
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