A sweet celebration filled with memories
by Michael Perlman
Sep 16, 2020 | 1116 views | 0 0 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The past and current owners of Aigner Chocolates pose for photo
The past and current owners of Aigner Chocolates pose for photo
Aigner Chocolates celebrated 90 years in Forest Hills on Sunday, reuniting the Aigner family with the new owners.

Owners Mark Libertini and Rachel Kellner acquired the business in October 2015, adding a new chapter to the Aigner story. In 1930, Germany native and confectioner Alfred Krause opened Krause’s Candy Kitchen in the same spot on Metropolitan Avenue. Since 1960, three generations of the Aigner family have satisfied the sweet tooth of patrons.

They include John Aigner, who began working at Krause’s in the 1950s after training in Austria and Germany, his son Peter and his wife Pia, and their son Chris. In 2009, the business was renamed Aigner Chocolates. In 2015, master confectioner Peter Aigner trained Kellner and Libertini, who continue to produce chocolates on museum-quality equipment from the 1940s and 1950s.

Kellner said she and her husband are honored to preserve a tradition.

“What we didn’t realize at that time was that we were being adopted by a community, so caring and involved,” she said. “The friendships we’ve developed with our fellow business owners, neighbors, and customers was completely unexpected, and now we can’t imagine our lives without all of these amazing people.

“My husband loves making chocolate and I love running a chocolate shop, but the passion and love wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for all of you,” she added.

Members of the Aigner family shared their memories of owning and running the shop.

“We lived above the chocolate shop when I was about nine in 1960,” Peter recalled. “When my parents were in bed, I would sneak downstairs into the store to help myself to a half-dozen milk chocolate marshmallows and take it up to my room.”

Like father, like son.

“I would sneak down early Saturday morning before the store was open and get a chocolate pop, and then go upstairs to my grandparents and watch cartoons with a glass of orange juice and chocolate pop,” added Chris.

Pia said she was struck by how much Americans loved chocolate.

“I was coming from a country where chocolate was so expensive that people would buy one to two pieces,” she said. “I came to America and they would buy it by the pound.”

The Aigner family feels they made the perfect choice in the husband-and-wife duo.

“We always maintained a high-quality product, and Mark and Rachel are excellent heirs,” Peter said. “They took it seriously and learned it from the ground up and continued the tradition, but with a little more artistic flair.”

Chris says he learned a lot working in the shop.

“Being in service you’re in a very special position in the world, you can change people’s experiences,” he said. “Being kind and treating them with respect and dignity regardless of how short your interaction is an important life lesson.”

Peter and Pia see their younger selves in Mark and Rachel.

“We had a lot of people who wanted to buy the business, but their heart wasn’t really in it,” Peter said. “Mark loves making chocolates and Rachel has excellent people skills. Those are two important ingredients, and it’s similar to the talents that my wife and I had.”

According to Peter, Chocolate production has evolved tremendously over the years.

“When I was a kid, basically all of the machinery was developed for big factories, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said. “Over the years, machinery was developed geared towards smaller manufacturers. When I was a kid, every single piece had to be rolled, cut, and dipped by hand.”

Many celebrities have walked through Aigner’s doors over the decades.

“I remember my father used to enjoy seeing celebrities such as Ralph Bunche, Dale Carnegie, Geraldine Ferraro, and Louis Armstrong, as well as his sister,” said Peter. “He wouldn’t eat any other chocolates, so she would buy it for him and send it out to Hollywood.”

“Ninety years is three full generations of families that probably touched five generations of families that had chocolate in their homes on holidays and their most intimate family moments,” added Chris. “It is wonderful to be part of a business that touched so many lives.”
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