Schmidt’s Candy has been in business since 1925. Credit: Ambar Castillo

Margie Schmidt spends her days hand-dipping chocolate in her little shop by the Woodhaven J train stop in Queens. She’s been doing this since she was 8 or 9 years old. Despite having arthritis, Schmidt is determined to continue the nearly 100-year-old family legacy of Schmidt’s Candy.

Schmidt has barely recovered from the Valentine’s Day rush when she had to begin preparing for another busy season: Easter. Chocolate bunnies of all kinds line her glass display cases. There are bunnies in a boat, bunnies in a car, and the classic sitting bunny (her father used to call it the “59-cent sitter,” which is how much it cost when Schmidt was little).  

“There’s a history here,” Schmidt said. “People come in, a third generation, shopping. They bring their grandkids.” 

Yet even her most hectic holiday seasons stir up a small fraction of what Schmidt’s Candy used to. 25 years ago, customers had to wait in line for two hours to buy candy on Valentine’s. But this Valentine’s, there was no line in sight.

Margie Schmidt shows off a classic Easter favorite, a “59-cent sitter.” Credit: Ambar Castillo

With the rising costs of living in the city, old-fashioned, homemade candy is often the first item to go when times get tough. “It’s a luxury business, and of course, this is a blue-collar neighborhood,” Schmidt says.

When Schmidt was growing up here, Woodhaven was mostly Irish, German and Italian. She remembers going to school with a single Asian American family and one Greek family. Her daughter and son, who are adopted, were the first Black residents on the block. Then more Latino and Caribbean families started moving in. 

“As the skin colors changed, Woodhaven still is a blue-collar, working-class, immigrant neighborhood,” Schmidt said. “We don’t pretend to be Garden City.” 

Despite providing non-essential goods in a working-class neighborhood, Schmidt’s Candy keeps churning — with only one Schmidt left running it. 

Schmidt, 64, is the third generation in her family to run the store. Her grandfather Frank Schmidt opened it in 1925 after immigrating from Germany. He bought the building and lived above the shop, which is one of the reasons it has outlived similar businesses in the neighborhood. Her father ran the shop until his death in 1984, when Schmidt took over. 

He wanted a different future for his daughter, one that involved less physical labor. While she first pursued a pharmacy career, organic chemistry cut that path short: “That was the only time I failed in my entire life,” she said. (Schmidt later learned food chemistry through osmosis in the shop.)

Schmidt instead got a degree in athletic administration, then a master’s, and went on to teach management at St. John’s University. She taught strategies like the five steps of planning — methods she herself never used in her family business.

“I woke up this morning and said, ‘what should I do today?’” Schmidt said. “That was my plan.” 

She still doesn’t have a plan as to who will continue the family legacy after her. 

“I hope that somebody wants to take it over,” Schmidt said. “Grandpa had six children, 31 grandchildren. I’m the only one who took it over. My kids are not interested — they see how hard I work.” 

From October through the spring, Schmidt works 12 hours or more. Leading up to high-demand holidays like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or Easter, she’ll be on her feet from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m., stirring chocolate, shaping candies and cutting caramel on the original marble counter in the store. 

Schmidt, who lives a block away from the shop, usually takes two daily breaks to walk her dogs. Lately, though, they’re not getting their second walk.

“I gotta spend more time here,” she said. “So they’re not happy with me.”

She balances out the arm-breaking work by taking the summers off, when the weather makes Schmidt’s handmade chocolate operations nearly impossible.

“I like the old-timey feel,” said a customer, Karla Saenz, the day Epicenter NYC visited Schmidt’s Candy. Despite having lived in Woodhaven since 2008, that was the first time Saenz stepped into the shop. 

Saenz had walked by it plenty of times but only learned about Schmidt’s Candy from a local foodie Facebook group. Inside the shop, she remarked at the vintage apothecary jars, wooden furniture, original door and photos. 

First-time customer Karla Saenz takes a crack at “chocolate crack.” Credit: Ambar Castillo

Longtime customer Brenda Torres, of neighboring Richmond Hill, had found out about Schmidt’s Candy while walking along Jamaica Avenue years ago. 

“I don’t see these places anymore,” she said. “It’s all corporate, so these mom-and-pop shops don’t exist anymore. It’s great that this is still here.” 

As other old-fashioned candy stores around Jamaica Avenue have disappeared over the decades, Schmidt’s Candy weathered the Great Depression and other economic downturns that have followed.

The store even thrived during the pandemic. With more people shopping from home, online sales soared: “That was the most I had ever done,” Schmidt said. 

Part of its survival is about adaptability. About 30 years ago, Schmidt added white chocolate to her wares — she doesn’t like it, but “you go with the times,” she says. She started selling sugar-free candy and chocolate. Those are some of the only items that aren’t handmade because she doesn’t have a recipe or license for the sugar-free goods.

“You can see when it’s machine-made,” Schmidt says, pointing to her clumpy pieces of chocolate, each one a slightly different shape. 

Margie Schmidt follows two previous generations’ tradition of “messy” handmade chocolate. Credit: Ambar Castillo

Her suggestion box is always open. Teens and young adults are her confidantes about food trends. One told her about the “crack” candy phenomenon, so she began making the crinkling cracker-like pieces to sell, though she “doesn’t get it.” Chocolate-covered Oreos is another she doesn’t “get” but added to adjust to the times: “They’re just Oreos,” she said. 

“And who would’ve thought salted caramel would be such a hit?” she said about the discovery she made decades ago, long before salted-caramel chocolate became widely popular. 

Chocolate with jelly filling is Schmidt’s number-one seller. It used to be mint-covered chocolate, Grandpa Schmidt’s favorite. 

While Schmidt is the only candymaker at the store, her community gets involved with the rest of the operations. A neighbor manages her website and social media. A neighborhood kid is helping with her Instagram and Facebook page for school community service credit and candy perks. Another neighbor, a teen, helps out in the shop on weekends and during school breaks. His greatest challenge is remembering prices for the dozens of different candies at Schmidt’s, he says, but he’ll always ask Margie when he’s stumped. 

Mike Tufano, a tenant who lives above the shop, chose the wall paint and lent his artistic vision to re-decorating the space to keep its essence from before a fire in 1972. 

In 2022, Schmidt’s Candy was added to the state’s Historic Business Preservation Registry. Some longtime customers of Schmidt’s Candy would stop by for their wife’s birthday or another special occasion but couldn’t remember what kind of candy their wife liked. So Schmidt would have the wife write it down. 

“And then the guy would say to me, ‘Check the wall,’” Schmidt said. “That’s right — you don’t want to get in trouble just getting the wrong f’ing thing.”

For her, creating candy never gets old. Her fingers, which have lost much of their sensation over the years, trace the detail of a chocolate race car driver’s goggles. 

“You know it’s handmade because of all the little holes, because that’s the imperfection of homemade,” she said. 

Schmidt’s niece illustrated a coloring book about the store. Credit: Ambar Castillo

Schmidt’s health conditions haven’t stopped the mostly one-woman operation. She had foot surgery about five years ago, and just celebrated the three-year anniversary of a surgery after an oral cancer diagnosis. 

Schmidt opens a coloring book illustrated by her niece, to a page that reads: “Margie had surgery/ she’s dipping in the back/ she can’t talk well/ imagine THAT.”

“When I open in the morning, I’m glad to be here,” Schmidt said. “I go to bed thinking, ‘what am I doing tomorrow when I get there?’”

Schmidt’s Candy

Order online at this link.

Physical store: 

94-15 Jamaica Ave, Queens, NY 11421


Tuesday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Sunday 12 to 3 p.m.  

Monday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Note: Call before coming into the store to verify it is open.

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