How Sweet It Ain’t
They say they just want a taste, just a sample, of the marketplace. Owners of Madelaine Chocolate are curious to know just how sweet their property is so they’ve put their 5.43 acres, some 200,000 square feet of property, up for sale.
On Tuesday, Jorge Farber, president and CEO of one of Rockaway’s largest employers, said the challenges brought about by Hurricane Sandy compel him to explore options. Although non-committal to any specific plan or goal, Farber said he owed it to his family to weigh a number of possibilities. He said the business is not for sale but where the business calls home is now under consideration.
Farber will consider selling all or part of the property which covers two and a half full city blocks from Beach 98th Street to Beach 95th Street between Beach Channel Drive and Rockaway Freeway.
Farber, who lives in Belle Harbor, said the challenges and difficulties of recovery are ongoing and consuming. He said he’s been kept so busy with post-storm recovery at Madelaine that he has not had the time to fix his damaged Belle Harbor home.
The company lost millions of dollars in product and millions more in equipment. Madelaine was out of business for nearly eight months. With the help of an SBA loan, a National Grid grant, and tax breaks, Madelaine was able to produce a limited run of chocolates in June, 2013. Four months later it had its official reopening in October, 2013, a year after Sandy struck.
Even with its ballyhooed reopening, the company wasn’t the same. Fewer machines, a scaled down work force, and new competition that rushed in while Madelaine was sidelined all contributed to a new and difficult business landscape.
Farber has called the whole episode “a nightmare” and is now looking for sweeter dreams.
City records reveal that the combined properties show a market value of more than $10 million dollars. The same records indicate that Macho LLC, the corporate entity which owns the place, has received substantial tax benefits through a program run by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC). According to EDC, in the late 1990s, “Madelaine reached out to New York City Industrial Development Agency for assistance. With the help of NYCIDA’s Industrial Incentive Program, Madelaine was able to remain in New York City and build a new 60,000- square-foot building, contiguous to its current facilities in Rockaway Beach.”
Norman Gold, another owner, of Madelaine said about EDC’s help: “Our workforce is our biggest asset. You read all the time about manufacturing jobs leaving the city. We didn’t want to be a part of that statistic.”
Now that Madelaine has listed the property with a powerhouse real estate firm, CBRE, it appears Madelaine is on its way to being a statistic, one that will sting the Rockaway economy.
Founded in 1949, Madelaine grew to be a worldwide success. In the boom times, Madelaine employed more than 400 people. After Sandy, the number was just over 150.
While the real estate market is tested so will be a new candy line. In a release to the chocolate industry Madelaine announced: This may be our greatest accomplishment in our rebuilding efforts post Hurricane Sandy! It’s Chocolate Rabbit time!! First up, White Chocolate Bunnies hopping their way to stores near you!
And now customers can wonder, will Madelaine itself be hopping out of Rockaway?
Not necessarily, Farber told The Wave. He said if part of the property is sold it might allow the company to stay. Although the future is unclear, he said, “I don’t want a longer commute than I have now.”