26 JUNE 17, 2021 RIDGEWOOD TIMES WWW.QNS.COM
When Karl Ehmer ruled the roost in Ridgewood
BY THE OLD TIMER
OUR NEIGHBORHOOD: THE WAY IT WAS
Are you hungry? If you happen
to be a carnivore, you will be
by the time you read about the
history of one of Ridgewood’s most
popular butchers, Karl Ehmer.
Karl Ehmer was born in a small village
near Stuttgart, Germany, in 1909,
and came to America in the fall of 1903
when he was 21 years old. He got a job in
a butcher shop in the Yorkville section
of Manhattan, and worked hard to save
enough money to open his own store.
In 1932, even though the country was
in the depths of the Great Depression,
he decided to strike out on his own and
he opened a Jersey Pork butcher shop
The photograph shows Karl Ehmer
standing in front of his shop in 1932.
He had a special sale on smoked ham
at 17 cents per pound, and off ered to
cook it free of charge.
But business conditions were diffi -
cult, and he struggled to keep his store
open. Finally, he went back to work at
his old job.
However, he still had ambitions of
operating his own business and, a
short time later, he tried again with
his own store, again in Manhattan.
This time, he prospered, and eventually,
in 1941, he opened a store in the
Ridgewood/Glendale area at 61-14
Myrtle Ave., off ering a large selection
of quality bolognas.
The store proved highly successful.
Nine years later, on Nov. 2, 1950, he
opened a much larger retail store and
a manufacturing plant at 62-10 Myrtle
Ave. Trucks lined up at the curb of the
new plant and retail store, advertising
quality pork products.
As his business continued to grow,
he moved to larger quarters in November
1958, at 63-35 Fresh Pond Road on
the corner of Menahan Street. All of
his products were made, at one time,
in this plant.
The list of Karl Ehmer products is
substantial, including frankfurters,
knockwurst, bratwurst, Black Forest
ham, Westphalian ham, kassler
rippchen (brined pork chops), braunschweiger
(Bavarian sausage), lachsschinken
(smoked pork loin), head cheese, leberkaese
(similar to bologna), schwaebischer
farmers salami and Tyrolerwurst
(an Austrian sausage).
Over the years, Karl Ehmer relocated
upstate and opened his own
farm on Noxon Road in La Grangeville,
New York, where he raised many of the
animals for his products. He also held
an annual Oktoberfest there for his
friends and family.
By the 1970s, Karl Ehmer had more
than 50 franchises across New York
City, Long Island Pennsylvania and
even Florida, along with fi ve cattle and
livestock farms and a slaughterhouse.
The company boasted a slogan, “The
Best Butcher on the Block.”
During the 1970s and 1980s, it was
not uncommon to fi nd Karl Ehmer
products and stores advertised on TV.
The company’s namesake starred in
one of the commercials, shot from the
kitchen of his upstate farmhouse. In
the spot, he boasts in his German accent
about his bratwurst being so delicious,
“it even makes the vegetables
Along with fi ne cold cuts and other
cuts of meat, a Karl Ehmer shopper
could walk into one of the stores and
fi nd an array of imported German
products including chocolate, cake
mixes, pickled goods, spaetzle and
Karl Ehmer died in 1989, and his
grandsons continued to operate the
company that bore his name. However,
the following three decades would see a
variety of changes including economic
downturns, shift ing demographics in
the Ridgewood/Glendale area where
Ehmer gained a loyal following and
dietary trends in which many people
turned away from regular consumption
of processed meats.
One by one, Karl Ehmer stores
across the New York City area closed.
The fl agship store and manufacturing
plant on Fresh Pond Road held out as
other pork stores across the area
Finally, on Sept. 30, 2010, the
Ridgewood store and plant closed. In
a Ridgewood Times article published
that same day (Thursday), Alan Hanssler,
Karl Ehmer company co-owner,
said that “rising labor costs and other
expenses, combined with a struggling
economy, brought the company to the
brink of bankruptcy.”
Photo via Ridgewood Times archives
“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 fi nd new jobs,” according to
the article. The store and manufacturing
plant would ultimately be transformed
into a self-storage facility.
The Karl Ehmer company continued
producing its products outside the
New York City area and distributing
them to butcher stores and supermarkets
around the area. The closure of
the Ridgewood Karl Ehmer left just
one butcher shop under the company
banner in Queens: a location on Horace
Harding Expressway in Fresh
Meadows. However, that location
would not last the decade; it closed in
2017, according to Yelp.
Today, you can still fi nd Karl Ehmer
products at grocery stores across
Queens; the company also continues
to operate stores in Long Island; Allentown,
Pennsylvania; Danbury, Connecticut
and Hillsdale, New Jersey. If
all else fails, you can even order them
online from the company’s website,
Sources: The Aug. 8, 1985 and Sept.
30, 2010 Ridgewood Times, Yelp and
Republished from the July 11, 2019,
issue of the Ridgewood Times.
* * *
If you have any remembrances or old
photographs of “Our Neighborhood:
The Way It Was” that you would like to
share with our readers, please write to
the Old Timer, c/o Ridgewood Times, 38-
15 Bell Blvd., Bayside, NY 11361, or send
an email to editorial@ridgewoodtimes.
com. Any print photographs mailed to
us will be carefully returned to you upon
The Karl Ehmer facility on Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood/Glendale in the
1940s. Photo via Ridgewood Times archives