‘Best Butcher On Block’ Will Close
Karl Ehmer To Shut In R’Wood.
After 75 years of serving prime meats and German delicacies as “the best butcher on the block,” Karl Ehmer Quality Meats is closing its Ridgewood shop and manufacturing plant today, Thursday, Sept. 30.
Rumors regarding the imminent closure of the store located at the corner of Fresh Pond Road and Menahan Street which have swirled around the neighborhood in recent days were confirmed by Karl Ehmer’s coowner, Alan Hanssler, in an interview with the Times Newsweekly.
Other Karl Ehmer stores around the city will remain open, including a store located on Horace Harding Expressway in Fresh Meadows (see Page 15).
Hanssler stated that rising labor costs and other expenses, combined with a struggling economy, brought the company to the brink of bankruptcy. The 25 workers employed at the Ridgewood store and plant will lose their positions today; all were provided with a month’s notice of the shutdown in order to find new jobs, he added.
The Karl Ehmer brand was sold to one of the company’s main distributors, Hanssler noted, with meat production moved to a location outside of the Ridgewood area. Products such as Karl Ehmer ham, bologna and sausage would continue to be sold to restaurants, delicatessens and butcher shops in the New York City area.
The Ridgewood plant and shop is currently in the process of being sold, the co-owner added. He hoped that another entrepreneur would open up a retail shop bearing the Karl Ehmer brand along Fresh Pond Road to continue serving its customers.
“We obviously wish we didn’t have to do this, but we had no choice,” Hanssler said, noting that he and his brother have poured their own savings into the company just to keep it afloat over the last several months. “We appreciate all of our customers. Hopefully, they’ll be able to find the product elsewhere. My brother and I have been here 35 years. It’s sad for us, and we’ll have to go out and look for jobs ourselves.”
The namesake of the business, Karl Ehmer, opened his first store in 1932 at the corner of 46th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan; nine years later, he relocated to Glendale, setting up shop at 61-14 Myrtle Ave. Opening in an area with an abundant German population, the store became so successful that Ehmer relocated a block east in 1950 to a larger storefront at 62-10 Myrtle Ave.
Business continued to boom for Ehmer, leading him to open a larger store and a large manufacturing plant at 63-35 Fresh Pond Rd., which opened its doors in November 1958. The franchise continued to blossom into a regional chain that, by the mid- 1970s, had more than 50 franchises across New York City, Long Island, Pennsylvania and as far away as Florida. At one point, Ehmer owned five cattle and livestock farms, as well as a slaughterhouse, in upstate New York to supply his products.
In an interview, Ehmer attributed the success of his company to the high-quality products it provided to a loyal customer base. Aside from producing a wide variety of sausages, smoked meats and cold cuts, including their famous bologna, Karl Ehmer offers an assortment of goods imported from Germany including chocolate, cake mixes, pickled goods, spaetzle and preserves.
Ehmer died in 1989, but his grandsons continued to operate the company that bore his name. Economic downturns, combined with shifting demographics in Ridgewood and other communities, resulted in the chain shrinking down to just over 30 stores by the early 1990s.