Thursday, December 22, 2011
I'm now part of the third generation of the Aigner family to make chocolate. But our company goes back to the early days of New York (1930), when elevated train lines crisscrossed the city and the country was about to enter the Great Depression - our store was built during this time, and has made chocolate consistently, for 80 years.
My grandfather, John Aigner, took over the store in 1960 after emigrating from an Alpine region of Austria. Along with his wife and son (my father), they lived above the store and made chocolate daily and by hand, working with copper kettles, wooden spoons and forged steel tables. In those days we had hand rollers, elderly ladies who came from factories in Europe – they would start out with a giant clump of raw crème or marzipan, nip off a piece by hand, roll it on their aprons, dip it in a tempered vat of chocolate, put it on wax paper, and when the tray was full, move it to the rack. My dad likes to tell a story of a day my great-grandfather came into the room, knocked over an entire rack (a full day’s work!) and yelled ‘It wasn’t me!’
In the 1970s my father, Peter Aigner, decided to join the airlines and travel abroad in Europe, eventually landing a job in Copenhagen. He’d spent plenty of summers in Austria studying chocolate and visiting family, however this trip was going to have a very different result – he would meet his wife, Pia Aigner, my mom. She was Danish of course.
They married and came home to New York to open their own store in Ridgewood, Queens. They took over Martha’s Candy Kitchen (est. 1915) and made chocolate in the old style. Later they would open a store in Astoria for five years and Manhasset for 17 years. Eventually my parents took over my grandparents’ store, the original, with the plan to slow down the pace and enjoy life a bit more after a lifetime of making chocolate.
My sister Stephanie, brother Peter and myself grew up making chocolate, also starting out living above the store in Ridgewood. I joined the company full time in November, 2009. Growing up in a family business is something that never leaves you, and after working in finance for six years, I was ready to get back to my roots. Since then, I’ve spent every day making chocolate, bringing a new website to our customers, and trying to let people know that there is a world of difference between chocolate, and Chocolate.
We hope you will come visit us, either in the store or online. We’ve tried to bring our fans a little closer to our product by updating our Facebook page every day with pictures, updates and videos showing us make chocolate by hand. We also have pictures of the store as it changes with the seasons – my mom got to fulfill her dream of becoming an interior designer by completely redecorating the store about six times a year.
Warm Regards Always,