Two months ago, I posted the image of a postcard advertising the old Yorkville restaurant, the Bavarian Inn. I marveled at the time at the line of German storefronts then lining 86th Street: Dei Lorelei, another very popular German restaurant of the time, was right next door, and Karl Ehmer, a German butcher, was on the other side.
I, of course, assume Ehmer's business was long dead and buried. But today I was shopping in the Red Hook Fairway and what do I see, next to the Schaller & Weber meat products, but a package of cooked bratwurst made by...Karl Ehmer. "Since 1932," read the logo.
There was a website address, so I looked it up and, whaddaya know, Karl Ehmer didn't go out of business. The Ehmer family (two grandsons now run it) is still churning out sausage in Ridgewood. Oh, certainly, that 86th Street store is gone, as are many others. Ehmer has have a manufacturing plant in Ridgewood since back in the 1940s. He would team up with store managers to co-own Karl Ehmer stores throughout the city and beyond. Karl would put up the money, and the managers would run the shops, carrying fine Ehmer products. It was a chain, and they were franchises, basically. By 1970, there were 30 Ehmer stores; by the late '70s, there were 50, some as far flung as Florida and Pennsylvania. His stuff always cost more, but it was better quality; the pigs came from his own farm in the Hudson Valley.
Due to changing demographics, the number of stores eventually shrunk. There are still a few left, apparently (one's in Ridgewood)—just none in Manhattan. Mainly, Ehmer producers are carried by other stores, like Fairway.
Hey, another reason to visit Ridgewood.