HINSCH’S PINCHED: Brooklyn candy store closes after 6 decades

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1/9/13: ***HINSCH’s DOOMED AGAIN, as its new owners couldn’t make a profit.***

10/17/11: ***HINSCH’S  SAVED, as the owners of Skinflint’s on 5th will operate it.****

I’ll admit it, I had been in Hinsch’s (pronounced HINSH’S, as if the C wasn’t there), the long-lived candy store and luncheonette, on 5th Avenue between 85th and 86th Streets in Bay Ridge, only once in about 40 years — I was in Bay Ridge to see to my ailing father in 2003, and Mary Beth and I had lunch there. Everyone called it Hinsch’s, not Hinsch. I had a turkey sandwich I was unimpressed with. All the same, I was glad Hinsch’s  was still there. Like me, it was a stolid, unchanging presence in an ocean of change.

I lived in Bay Ridge from 1957-1993. Even as a kid, I did not go into Hinsch’s that often. It’s not that I had a dislike of the place. It’s just that there was an old fashioned candy shoppe named Pohl’s that was closer to where I lived, on 5th Avenue and 83rd. I’d go in with friends, or with my mother or grandmother, and eat ice cream and chat in the big leather booths. And, what I remember was the quiet of the place. From the movies, you think of ice cream shoppes as brightly lit places, jukeboxes roaring, dancing teenagers. Not Pohl’s. Anyhow, Pohl’s closed in the 1970s and is likely remembered only in my own brain lobes, as there’s nothing about it on the internet. (Another lunch spot for us was the Green Tea Room on 86th Street, and I never did figure out if it was named for green tea or the color of the room.)

Hinsch’s, however, was always bustling and brightly lit, as I recall. Over the years it didn’t so much as develop new clientele as retain the customers they had, as the kids moved on to Chuck E. Cheese and other franchises. Brooks of Sheffield illuminates this in his Lost City column:

Hinsch’s retains many of the earmarks of the soda fountain era. The old glasses cut that familiar, wide-mouthed Coca-Cola silhouette. There’s a “Cherry Smash” on the menu—basically cherry syrup and seltzer. They also serve egg creams, and waffles are a house specialty. Ice cream is scooped out of metal canisters set into the counter, and served in silver bowls.

That ice cream, by the way, is house made. “French Ice Cream,” reads a sign; “hand packed.” So, too, are the chocolate treats that are displayed on a curious hodge-podge of shelving alongside the southern wall.

The clientele are Bay Ridge citizens, mostly, and have been eating here for decades, by the color of their hair and the slowness of their step. They may like the food, but it’s probably the attention the keeps them coming back. “You need anything, Russell?” a waitress asks an elderly man emptying an ice cream dish at the counter. It’s a rare customer the staff doesn’t know by name. Another man misidentifies the day at Thursday, and is gently, and simultaneously corrected by three people, “It’s Wednesday!”

When word came that the Logues, who had owned the place for decades (it had first opened in 1948) had decided to close the place after their lease expired (word was that the landlady had asked for a substantial increase in rent) I felt a definite pang, though it wasn’t of surprise. Franchises are increasingly filling voids left by family-owned lunch counters and candy shoppes because only the franchises can afford the rents.

The loss of Hinsch’s definitely took Bay Ridge by surprise. The title card shows passersby  pausing and reading the signs with confusion. I stopped a woman from going in, telling her it was closed, eliciting amazement. A local wrote this message of farewell on the door.

A big loss would be this classic neon billboard sign, though I’d have to say that the residents of the apartments on the 2nd and 3rd floors might not miss it. I have contacted the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati about their purchasing the sign.

Bay Ridge moves on. There’s plenty of opportunities for lunch. There’s Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway…

…Burger King, Popeye’s, Five Guys…

…but Hinsch’s will reside in the brain lobes.

I have a job interview on 20th Street today — maybe I will eat lunch at Eisenberg’s after it’s over.

10/4/11





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32 Responses to HINSCH’S PINCHED: Brooklyn candy store closes after 6 decades

  1. David Evangelides says:

    As a teenager in the 60′s we moved from Wyckoff St to Bensonhurst. Without cars, we took the 5th Ave Bus to 86th St, thansferred to the 86th St bus. After nearly an hour on the 5th Ave Bus, Bay Ridge seemed like ‘the country’. Our favorite stop off was Hinch’s for ice-cream and a snack. Thanks for the years of being there; for the memories; wish you all the best.

  2. Otto Vondrak says:

    A shame that classic establishments like these can’t continue on forever. Your closing remark about 20th Street and Eisenberg’s hit home, as my father and I worked on 20th for many years and Eisenberg’s was a daily ritual for both of us.

  3. Carl G says:

    Another casualty of the Obama Depression.

  4. KevinJWalsh says:

    Sorry about the discrepancy, 6 or 7 decades. 63 years, just over 6 decades…

  5. DC says:

    Many fond memories of Hinsch’s. And Pohl’s did exist, next to Met Food I believe? And if it’s any consolation to you, Zeke’s has returned, on 77th and 3rd, original owner.

    • KevinJWalsh says:

      I know. I ate lunch there yesterday.

    • KATHY says:

      ahhh pohls. i used to live up the street. i ate lunch there every saturday with my aunt . by the end of lunch our table was filled with friends and neighbors. i will never forget those memories.

  6. Peter says:

    I’d hardly put Five Guys in the same category as BK or Subway. Five Guys rules!

  7. elenap@sterlinglandlord.com says:

    So sad to see this charming and iconic restaurant go; another byproduct of this faltering economy, which isn’t being helped by either political party. Another memory to pass into ephemera. Another cold, profit-fed ‘McChain’ will swoop in and take over that space. I remember many nice lunches out there with my Mom and with friends, as well. Why does it seem lately that when things start to change, it isn’t for the better? Makes me feel so sad.

  8. Ralph says:

    I’ll always remember the ice cream over toasted pound cake, and the many molded chocolates for Easter! The fact is, I moved away and haven’t been there in years. So there you go. Nice memories, though; thank you.

  9. Laura Austan says:

    I could cry. Hinsch’s holds so many memories. Greedy landlords care nothing about tradition.

  10. tom says:

    Hi, I`m now 77 yrs old & I first worked there when I was 16. Later I worked for John the father; he was tough but the best.
    What no one has mentioned is all the good that he did for so many people in times of need. He is one of those people who only come along once in awhile. He also gave 2 of my kids a job when they were barely tall enough to reach the counter. They like me have so many fond memories of John Logue and I`m sure there are people all over who have such good feelings for him.

  11. Elaine Black says:

    The place was a landmark for 86th & 5th for so many years.
    Each time I returned for a visit to Brooklyn I would stop there for lunch & remember the good old times.
    It will be missed by so many.

  12. Louise Anderson says:

    Loved reading the article. Such good memories – I lived in BayRidge from 1959-1963. In addition to Pohls and Hinsch’s, I also remembered Holsteins – also on 5th Ave. in BayRidge – but maybe around 69th St. or that area. Had to stop there on Wednesday nights after choir practice at Zion (63rd St. and 4th). They just don’t make places like that anymore. And someone mentioned “5 Guys” . . .I thought that was a cut-rate furniture store! Times have changed! Thanks for the memories.

    • Bill Almgren says:

      Holstein’s was on the Corner of 77th Street and 5th Avenue…remember it well (now a Asian Vegetable/Fruit Store). Closed in the late 1970′s – when Fancy Sundae opened across the street from them.

      Bill Almgren
      (former Brooklynite – Bay Ridge)
      now residing in Atlanta, GA

      • Robert Anderson says:

        Holstein’s was one store away from the corner of Bay Ridge (69th) and 5th… my grandmother Borghild (known as Bea), was a waitress there… she lived around the corner on 68th street….

  13. joe barberi says:

    i remeber pohls ice cream parlor. ahh the good old days.

  14. rose bruno says:

    we used to go to pohls. tuna on toast with a coke. 1.99. apple pie and coffe. 1.50. ah bay ridge at its best.

  15. Tim Skoldberg says:

    My cousin’s Matilda and Herman Hinsch (pronounce the C) opened Hinsch’s Ice Cream Parlor until he sold to John..
    and then opened Hinsch’s liquor store on 77th and 5th that the family ran till the early 80′s.
    Matilda Hinsch lived to be 108 years old.

  16. tim butler says:

    Ahh, Pohls. I can still taste the chocolate frappes. I can also recall that delicious remedy for stomach upset we used to get there, Coke concentrate from the fountain (without the added seltzer water).

  17. Bill Almgren says:

    Great Memories of Pohl’s (my sister, Eileen, worked there – 1st Job in the late 1970′s)
    .
    For Me Hinsch’s Luncheonette was the place to go as a working Teenager (Homemade Chicken salad on Toast with Lettuce with Pickle Chips on the side – side of Fries and a Vanilla Shake -Homemade Ice Cream…made in the window). I worked as a Stock Clerk/salesman at Rosen’s Toy and Juvenile Furniture Store …a few doors down (first hired there as a Santa Claus and handed out Hinsch’s Lolipops to the kids on 5th avenue – worked there from 1977 – till closing in the early 1980′s).

    I remember when John Logue of Hinsch’s saved Rosen’s Toy Store from burning down around Easter 1980 or so (a stuffed bunny leaned up against a spotlight bulb in the Big window display). He kept an eye on the neighborhood. Truly a Man for all seasons… Ran a Tight ship in his store.
    A Great Guy, & Great Family man – Thanks John

    Some wonderful Memories….

    Bill Almgren
    Moved from Bay Ridge, Bklyn 1993 (visit occasionally over the years)
    Now residing in Atlanta, GA

  18. blake says:

    i lived in bayridge from 1984-1991 i never went in it al all

  19. Mary Conway says:

    So sorry to hear the news. When I would go shopping in the 86th St. area, i used to have lunch at Hinsch’s. For a newcomer like me (1/1/2000), the place made me feel part of the neighborhood.

  20. Lisa Finn says:

    The memories! Pohl’s was a huge part of my childhood. My Nanny would take me for lunch there often; we’d meet her friend Bertha and they’d chat and laugh and I’d always get a tuna on white toast with lettuce and a chocolate ice cream soda. Sometimes, I’d have a side of fries.

    Rosen’s was my favorite place on earth. I had a Lundby dollhouse (still have it) that we bought while visiting family in Norway and had shipped home. Rosen’s had Lundby dollhouses and accessories, and I can still remember every detail of that display.

    Hinsch’s was another favorite –my mom went to high school with one of the long-time waitresses, and we had lunch their often. Grilled cheese with tomato, tuna on toast, and always, homemade peach ice cream (and I think they may have had banana ice cream, too). I also remember their homemade meat loaf. . .

    I’ll have to go back for lunch, just one more time, before another cherished Brooklyn memory fades, just like Pohl’s, and Sorrento’s, which had the world’s best lasagna — I would give anything for one more dinner there. . . .

  21. Paul Marrone says:

    After receiving First Holy Communion at St. Pat’s in ’55, my mother & I walked to my grandmother’s house on 81st St., but not before stopping off at Hinsch’s for lunch. I remember having a cream cheese & jelly sandwich and a vanilla malted.

    Mom passed away two years later. It’s the connection to that day, having lunch with my Mom, that I’ll always remember and treasure.

    While the monument to that memory will now fade into history, the memory itself will always be there.

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