Last summer, I pitched a local food magazine an article about Karl Ehmer, the old school German sausage maker in Ridgewood. They went for it and told me to go head. But when I called Ehmer, they were cagey about the idea. They were renovating, the man said. Call back in the fall. I chalked it up to the died-in-the-wool suspicions an old-time Queen merchant had for a Big City reporter. The story was killed.
Now I know why they didn't want to talk. I apologize for being so late to this story—I still feel it's important to report it—but Karl Ehmer closed its shop and main shipping center on Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood, Queens, in late September of last year. I suppose I should have seen that coming when I noticed that a Karl Ehmer outlet in Glendale closed last winter.
The shop opened in Ridgewood in 1958, but the Ehmer story goes back further than that. The first store was opened in 1932 on 46th St. and Second Ave. Ehmer had 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. There was one prominent store on E. 86th Street, in then-German Yorkville. By 1970, there were 30 Ehmer stores; by the late '70s, there were 50, some as far flung as Florida and Pennsylvania.
But the Germans died or moved away, and Ehmer's presence in Manhattan vanished. Ehmer followed his clientele out to Ridgewood and Glendale. But they, too, eventually faded away, and the store hurt for business. The brand will still be found in stores, since the family sold the name to Bosco's Family Food Company, a distributor in Oceanside, Long Island. But for the first time in nearly 80 years there is no longer an Ehmer store in New York City.
I visited the Ridgewood store back in December 2009. Didn't know it was for the last time.