16 February 2011

Karl Ehmer Leaves New York


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.

12 comments:

ollhai said...

Sad history. But there is still German sausage here.
Greetings from Berlin/Germany

Anonymous said...

Sadly, the Ridgewood Times Newsweekly reported last week that the Ehmer facility will likely be developed into self-storage. (story not yet online)

Come to Gottscheer Hall, Rudy's Bakery, and Morscher's Pork Store while you still can... German Ridgewood is disappearing rapidly.

ironrailsironweights said...

German restaurants were reasonably common not all that long ago, but today very few remain. German food in general just doesn't seem to have much appeal. Although there's always the chance that it could be "discovered" as the next new trendy cuisine.

Peter

Theodore said...

Ditto to Anon.

I can't recommend Morscher's Pork Store on Catalpa Ave in Ridgewood enough. My mother grew up down the block and I still make the trek out there to get the best sausages I'll ever have - and still get to order in German too!

Also the Gottscheer Clubhouse is excellent too - they were just written up in the Times for the $25 and under dining column.

JP said...

I remember the one on 181st st in manhattan run by Felix and Crystal. my brother worked for them as a young man.

John said...

I live around the corner from Karl Ehmer, so I was sad to see it close, too. I will say its prices in the little store there were not super-competitive with other places in the neighborhood -- and Ridgewood is lucky enough to still have a decent selection of butchers (if not necessarily lots of sausage-makers) still. But I think it will suck if that building just becomes a generic self-storage place.

And I heartily agree about Morscher's and Gottsheer Hall.

Anonymous said...

COTEI WAS A KARL EHMER WORKER AND I LOVE MY JOB I WORK IN THE MEAT CO.'S FOR 30 YEARS AND AT THIS TIME I STILL CAN'T FIND A JOB I WISH KARL EHMER WOULD OPEN A STORE IN RIDGEWOOD AGAIN I WOULD BE BACK WITH THEM I MISS KARL EHMER TOO THANK YOU R,P

Helmut said...

I miss the "leberkase" from Ehmer's. We used to get it warm on Saturday mornings from the Ehmer's on Forest and Catalpa Ave.I grew up in Ridgewood.

Anonymous said...

You can come out to the country at www.aporkstore.com and get all the Karl Ehmer you want, we are a old Ehmer store from way back 30 plus years so come and see us.

East FIshkill Porkstore
845 724 5005

Anonymous said...

found this site while having an argument about Karl Ehmer stores. I found my answer, but I'd like to comment, that while it was a store that catered to German tastes, my Irish father and many other Irish LOVED Karl Ehmer -- it was European in the sense that the Irish loved corned beef and potato salad, and much more -- Dad's fav was the Kippered Herring for Sunday breakfast. It was the go-to butcher for my family.

Anonymous said...

there used to be a karl ehmer store on the nw corner of forest ave.and catalpa ave. it is now a dentist. luckily, when it was converted, they kept the store front, with the curved glass!

I-)

DGreene697 said...

Responding to the last post re the Ehmer's on Catalpa & Forest. I'm 50, and grew up in Ridgewood. My 5 siblings and I went to St Matthias. When I was little, my mother used to shop all the time at that store you mentioned. I remember the deli guy would always give a slice of bologna or a cocktail frank to any child that came in with the parents. I live in NJ now, and am fortunate to have an Ehmer's 10 miles north of me.