Though neighborhoods change, over the years these businesses have been the backbone of the community.
Auction Outlet of Queens
95-04 Liberty Avenue, Ozone Park
Open since 1968, Auction Outlet of Queens, in Ozone Park, serves the community for all home decorating needs.
Founded and still run by the Leistein family, Auction Outlet sells home hardware goods including handles, countertops and faucets.
“We’re a retail business that started selling paneling and molding. We expanded to doors and home decorating,” said Arlene Kuchcicki, manager and bookkeeper. “We’re the largest selection of tiles in New York as well and I’m not lying. There are so many tiles here.”
They carry all types of tiles from ceramic to marble, along with imported tiles from Mexico, Brazil, Italy, Spain and Turkey.
“We mostly sell kitchen cabinets and tiles,” she said. “We’re known for our extraordinary prices for cabinets.”
Though they work with many contractors and builders, homeowners make up the larger portion of their business. Auction Outlet has experienced design specialists who are hired to help create any customized kitchen, along with other salespeople who are trained to help with all the details and measurements of any home project.
“We’ve been up and down in the past 10 to 15 years but we’re stable now and plan to expand in business,” said Kuchcicki.
Auction Outlet is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
109-14 Atlantic Avenue
South Richmond Hill
Childhood friends Bruno Loia and Guy Pierno were working at State Farm insurance in 1988 when they decided to buy D&H Autobody.
The autobody was established in 1946 by Don and Harry Ezzo, who ran it until they were in their 70s and Loia and Pierno took over.
The two pals had always worked on cars and to this day keep their love alive by providing the best care they can give. In business now for nearly a quarter of a century, they have brought in many loyal customers. “Basically, we rely on word of mouth,” Loia said. “Some accounts have stuck with us for years. We work for out customers, we represent out customers.
In the shop, there is constant communication between every mechanic or specialist — to ensure each car is worked on with clarity and quality.
“My guys are not under pressure,” he said. “There’s no rush to put a car together. That’s pretty much our formula.”
161-03 Cross Bay Boulevard
Joe De Candia, who inherited Lenny’s Clam Bar from his parents, says the well-known establishment on Cross Bay Boulevard tries to keep with original recipes while keeping up with the times.
“It’s passed down through the generations,” said De Cadia.
Established by De Candia’s parents in 1974, Lenny’s has become a standout in the community — and outside of it, too.
Whether you’re a celebrity, waiting for a delayed plane at JFK or just out in the neighborhood, Lenny’s is a hot spot for great clams and great atmosphere. Funny girl and Queens native Fran Drescher, Aldo the Giant and a number of athletes have frequented the Cross Bay clam bar.
“I think it’s location,” said De Candia in reference to what makes Lenny’s so popular. “We’re a landmark here in the area. We give a good meal and we’re reasonably priced.”
While Lenny’s gets a lot of attention from people outside of Howard Beach, De Candia is invested in the community. Having lived in the neighborhood for 49 years, going to school and raising his kids here, he has tried to give back to the area in a number of ways. He has actively taken part in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and organizes an annual walk in Howard Beach to raise money and awareness for the disease.
109-20 Liberty Avenue
Richmond Hill, N.Y. 11419
What Molbegott Hardware offers that big-box chains do not is quality assurance and great prices.
This is how second-generation store owner Martin Molbegott describes his shop, which has been serving Richmond Hill since 1926.
Molbegott Hardware was established by Martin’s parents on Liberty Avenue and over time the shop expanded next door. In these two locations, the store not only sells hardware, but home and kitchen appliances and plumbing supplies. Martin has now run the store for more than 60 years, having taken over after his father passed away.
Molbegott said the shop has retained customers because of the care its staff has given to ensure the buyer gets not only the best price, but all the help that’s needed. He said the mission has always been to put the customer first.
“We do a service beyond anyone else,” he said. “We do services no other store in the neighborhood can imagine.”
Part of this service is teaching customers about each item they buy, or any repairs they might be doing. This type of customer care, Molbegott said, is not offered by any of the big-name hardware stores.
“We explain each and every step when we sell something,” he said.
164-26 Cross Bay Boulevard
After a long absence on Cross Bay Boulevard, Sapienza’s is back and the neighborhood couldn’t be happier.
The eatery, located just before the bridge to Broad Channel, is full of customers telling the staff how happy they are that Sapienza’s is back in the neighborhood.
Owner Angelo Mugnolo originally ran the delicatessen a little further north on Cross Bay before selling to a new owner in 2009. The new owner, he said, and another owner after that did not have the same success and Mugnolo decided to come back.
After eight months of remodeling the new site, Mugnolo and co-owner Anthony Calore reopened Sapienza’s on September 24 and the neighborhood can’t be happier.
The two have years of experience with the neighborhood and food.
While the owners tout that a customer can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner for an entire week and never get the same thing, it may not be what they’re most famous for. Sapienza sells around 2,500 pounds of pastrami a week and goes by the motto, “The Best Pastrami in Queens.” The mouth watering pastrami is a favorite amongst the diners who come in during lunchtime and tell the owners how happy they are that Sapienza’s is back.
94-15 Jamaica Avenue, Woodhaven
Though much of Woodhaven has changed since the mid-1920s when it opened up, Schmidt’s Candy is a step back into the era of wooden rails on the el train.
With tiling and candy cases nearly 100 years old, the store, as current shop owner Margie Schmidt says, is a step back in time.
Most of the candy is baked right in the shop, Schmidt said, and most of the recipes came from Germany with her grandfather, who founded the store. Margie still makes her caramel on a marble table in the basement of the small shop, still quietly tucked under the elevated rails of the “J” train on Jamaica Avenue. In the back of the store, she bakes her chocolate.
Because of the need to make all the traditional sweets, Schmidt’s is closed during July and August. On a recent fall day, Margie described the “cool, crisp, dry weather” as the ideal baking conditions.
Today the shop’s biggest times are seasonal and holidays. But as regulars come in for their Easter, Halloween or Christmas candy, Margie says she always reminds them the shop is open.
To the best of Margie’s knowledge, she is the last candy shop in the borough where the sweet, heavenly chocolate is made right in the store.
“I think I can say I’m the only homemade candy store in Queens,” she said.
118-16 101st Avenue, Richmond Hill
Villa Russo, located at 118-16 101st Avenue, Richmond Hill, is a catering establishment that was first started in 1954 and hosts wedding receptions, birthdays, anniversaries, engagement parties, showers, christening celebrations, Communion celebrations, reunions and other festivities.
Featuring Italian dining, the location itself offers three different rooms in which to accommodate events. The Palace, as its title suggests, is very elegant with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and balconies spanning overhead. It can seat up to 275 guests. Then there is the Grotto, which is a little cozier and seats up to 175. The Party Room, seating up to 65, is a narrower dining hall complemented by long tables, archways and a stone floor. On top of the three rooms, Villa Russo will also come to you with its outside catering service. Each option comes with a variety of menu choices, the details for which can be found at villarussocatering.com.