02 June 2014

The Saga of Flora Mir

This building on the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Caton Avenue made me stop in my tracks. The facade seemed needlessly ornate and rococo. It reminded me of the old, long, one-story buildings you see here and there in the city that used to be the homes of Child's restaurants. For a moment I thought that this address itself might have been a Child's at one point.

A little research proved that theory wrong. Just as it is today, this structure was originally chopped up into various assorted businesses. In 1944, there was a poultry and egg shop here, a florist and a place offering electrolysis. And a few offices on the second floor. But the main operation, occupying the corner space, was a store called Flora Mir.

Flora Mir sold homemade candy. It was established in 1928 in New york by two cousins, Florence and Miriam Berman. (Hence the fancy-sounding name.)  It appears to have been a chain of some sort, with many stores, and had "executive offices and kitchens" in Bushwick. In 1953, Flora Mir had eight stores in Manhattan, Long Island, Staten Island and New Jersey. You could also buy Flora Mir candies at other stores. (See below for an examples of the nice tins the candies came in.) I get the idea that they were sort of the Russell Stover of their day, the kind of box of chocolates you could buy in a card shop or variety store. In the 1950s, comedian Henny Youngman was a paid spokesman for the company.

The corporation seems to have gone down in rather spectacular fashion in the late 1960s. Flora Mir went public, with shares traded, and acquired four other candy companies across the nation. However, those acquisitions apparently didn't go well. By year's end, Flora Mir was entangled in various nasty-sounding legal tangles, and went bankrupt.


Steven said...

That ornate terra-cotta design on the facade of this building is sometimes referred to as "tropical deco" and is somewhat rare for NYC (you see much more of it in warm-weather cities like Miami and Los Angeles). The Chanin Building near Grand Central has a very similar relief on its facade.

Mitch said...

Very interesting. At least we learn that the sort of merger chicanery that we've been treated to of late isn't a recent invention.

I wonder how good the chocolates were!

Anonymous said...

I was researching stock certificates and now know the 50 shares of Flora Mir candy corporation dated Aug 29th 1969 were worthless when my father acquired them when my grandmother died in the summer of 1969

Unknown said...

My mother was their bookkeeper in the 60's. I was around 15 or 16. She occasionally brought home a large box of chocolates that were seconds. They were seconds because they were not perfect. As in an almond cluster, if the top almond was not placed correctly, or was missing, it was a second. The chocolate was soooo good. Better than any we would have bought in a candy store. In my remembered opinion I would compare them with Godiva not "drug store chocolate". In those days people would not have spent so much on "specialty" chocolate as they do today. Maybe that's why they didn't succeed. Just the wrong time.