Memory Lane: Candy Store “When Boro Parkers Could Get By Selling Cigars”

Memory Lane:  Candy Store  “When Boro Parkers Could Get By Selling Cigars”

Time was when seemingly every block in Boro Park featured a candy store. And a candy story—especially a kosher one—was not lined with candy on every square inch the way it is today. A couple of shelves of candy, newspapers, cigarettes, soda, and a few other miscellaneous items was evidently enough to keep a business afloat in Boro Park of yesteryear.

Which brings us to Sam and Rosa Rosenberg who owned the fabled candy store on 5415 New Utrecht Avenue for over 60 years. 

Veteran Boro Parkers recall how Mr. Shulem and Mrs. Rosa Rosenberg would bike to work through those streets, and how nothing really changed in the interior of the store for as long as they could remember. Legend has it that when Coca Cola Company got wind of the vintage Coca Cola clock embedded with their logo, they offered a respectable amount of money for this relic of their history—but Mrs. Rosenberg would not sell.

“We made an honest dollar in that store,” Mrs. Rosenberg would recall. “And for us, coming from Auschwitz (she rolls up her sleeve to reveal the tattooed numbers A-7395)… we never thought we would rebuild and have children… This was all we had, and we worked hard for it.”

If someone gave an extra penny we gave it back—we never cheated anyone out of a dime. Our customers were our family, because we had no family. When we sold the store, the people on the neighborhood would come up to me and say, Rosie, the block is not the same without you.

And hard they did work. “There was no air conditioning in those days, and they would spend all their days and some of their nights in that store. And slowly with much hard work, they build their small fortune,” relates Meir Frankel, a grandson of the Rosenbergs.

He relates an anecdote that describes this very tenacity that these Holocaust survivors lived with. “When Breier's ice cream company launched, they sold to all the small establishments like Roseberg’s who would sell it along with the other goodies such as malted’s, egg cream, coffee, soda drinks, and so many more. When they got a little bigger, they decided that they no longer needed the small businesses anymore, so one day they came and picked up their freezers, and left. Rosa was incensed that they would do this to people who had stood by the company as they grew in size—but there was nothing she could do. Until it came time for Key Food which leased the next door property (where New Utrecht turns into 13th Avenue) to renew their lease.

“They came to the back of the store, where there was a table where the Rosenberg’s did all their business, and they unequivocally told that unless they began to receive Breyer’s ice cream there was nothing to talk about. Needless to say the manager of Key Food took care of it immediately, and they had all the ice cream they needed. 

Sam Rosenberg, a toughened Holocaust survivor was known as a gentle giant; you did not want to start up with him, but what he wouldn’t do for another person… and no one was told ‘no.’ “They were the emergency contact for everyone— because you knew they were always there. And hundreds of people turned out for Mr. Rosenberg’s because he would always greet everyone,” explains Meir.

Of course, Rosenbergs is really known for the stacks of newspapers stacked outside. “We sold everything… from Der Yid to the Forverts, the Algemeiner, Der Morgen Journal, and all the others. This was how people would relax and het their news…” explains Mrs. Rosenberg.

For the last ten years of his life, the Rosenbergs took in Mr. Rosenberg’s father, Reb Refoel who davened with them in the Viznitzer beis medrash—as he hailed from Viznitzer Chassidim. Reb Refoel was known as a tzaddik and a chassid.  

In an interview she gave years ago, Mrs. Rosenberg shared this message, learned from her incredible life experience: “We must always appreciate what we have; everyone should think about the blessings that Hashem gives them, and always work to be happy.”   

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