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Sweet Deal Saves Decades-Old Chocolate Store in Forest Hills

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | October 14, 2015 6:44pm
 The store which closed earlier this year is scheduled to reopen on Oct. 22. 
Sweet Deal Saves Decades-Old Chocolate Store in Forest Hills
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QUEENS — Aigner Chocolates, a much loved Forest Hills store which closed earlier this year, will reopen next week under new ownership.

The shop, at 103-02 Metropolitan Ave., known for its homemade pistachio marzipans, peanut butter cups and almond clusters, closed after the Aigner family, which had run the store for decades, decided to remodel it.

The family was initially planning to reopen the store for its 85th anniversary, but then they decided to retire and sell it instead.

The shop was purchased several weeks ago by Mark Libertini, 42, whose lifelong dream has been to open a chocolate store.

In August, Libertini, a trained pastry chef, who also co-owns a deli in Midtown Manhattan, was in Forest Hills on an unrelated matter and spotted the shop.

He wanted to buy some chocolates for his fiancée, Rachel Kellner. But the store, which Libertini, who lives in Bayside, had never heard about before, was closed.

When he saw the sign that it was for sale, he instantly felt it may be his chance to fulfill his goal.

Two weeks later, he bought the store.

“This was just the perfect timing and opportunity to go ahead and take over the Aigners brand and to lean on their expertise,” said Libertini who will be running the store with Kellner, 30.

Libertini said he is planning to keep the traditional recipes and to follow the old-fashioned way of making the chocolates. The Aigners will remain involved in the first years to ease the transition and to ensure the quality of products.

The store originally belonged to Alfred Krause, a German chocolatier who opened it in 1930.

John Aigner, who learned the art of making chocolates in Austria, came to the U.S. in the 1950s with his wife and son, Peter. He got a job at the store and introduced many classic European recipes after buying it from Krause in 1960.

In 2009, the store's name was changed from Krause's Candy Kitchen to Aigner Chocolates, but the owners continued to make everything from scratch using traditional machines, including a cream beater, melter and enrober, some of which are six decades old.

"This is where the magic happens," said Libertini who plans to keep the machinery.

“It’s not just a chocolate shop, it’s really a mini chocolate factory."

He said he is planning to keep the store’s name at first, although in the future he is hoping to launch an additional brand, which would include "chocolate cards" for birthdays and other special occasions.

Chris Aigner, John’s grandson, said that the family is confident the store landed in good hands.

“We interviewed a lot of people and we turned down a lot of people,” Aigner said, adding that it was important to the family to find someone who would continue their traditions. 

“Mark was a great fit and he is really passionate about chocolate.”

The shop which is currently undergoing decor remodeling is scheduled to reopen on Oct. 22.