Aigner Chocolates: A Sweet Story of Community Engagement


During National Small Business Week, Aigner Chocolates, a cherished Forest Hills establishment, shines as a symbol of community resilience. Credit: Mohamed Farghaly.

As the nation celebrated National Small Business Week during the month of May, the spotlight falls on Aigner Chocolates, a cherished local establishment that has been serving up delectable treats since 1930. Founded as Krause’s Candy Kitchen, this iconic chocolate shop has evolved into a cornerstone of the Forest Hills community, thanks to the dedication of its current owners, Rachel Kellner and Mark Libertini.

Founded in 1930, it evolved into a cornerstone under owners Mark Libertini and Rachel Kellner. Their commitment to community engagement is exemplified. Credit: Mohamed Farghaly.

What sets Aigner Chocolates apart is not just its mouthwatering confections, but also its unwavering commitment to community engagement and social impact. Rachel Kellner, a licensed clinical social worker, brings a unique perspective to the business, viewing food not just as a delight for the taste buds but also as a form of therapy.

“My background is as a social worker, and I worked in drug addiction for 10 years. Now I help enable addiction, chocolate addiction that is,” Kellner said. “And my business partner always wanted to open a chocolate shop and he’s driving down Metro and one day, saw a chocolate shop, went in to buy me chocolate, he saw there was a for sale sign and we bought the business four weeks later.”

Owning the business for the past 9 years, Aigner Chocolates prides itself on its diverse and predominantly female-led management team. With certifications from WBENC, NYC, and NYS, the shop exemplifies excellence and inclusivity in its operations.

“I think that females tend to be attracted to work in a female owned business,” Kellner said. ” I think that it’s inspiring and motivating and they just gravitate towards that.” 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Aigner Chocolates stepped up to the plate, donating their chocolate and goods to spread joy and hope in the community. 

“The pandemic gave us the opportunity for me to channel the social work that I have, and the desire to always give back and do for others,” Kellner said. “We were fortunate enough to be able to donate $30,000 worth of chocolate during the pandemic, and really start to be seen as a source of healing and hope and joy through the magic of our chocolate and sharing that with the community. And the more support that we’ve received from the Queens community, the more we’ve been able to give back. And we just feel really fortunate to be a part of a community that welcomed us and gave us the opportunity to continue on this legacy that we have and institution that we own.”

In a recent development, Aigner’s announced the filing for 501c3 status of an informal business alliance, Metro Village of Forest Hills, co-founded during the challenges of the pandemic by Kellner. This achievement marks a significant step forward in their commitment to community engagement and social impact which has been vital to Rachel & Mark’s journey since they took over Aigner Chocolates almost 9 years ago.

During the pandemic, Metro Village emerged as a beacon of community support in Forest Hills, Queens, following a burglary at Eisner Chocolates. This grassroots initiative aims to foster camaraderie and bolster local businesses, particularly those along Metropolitan Avenue. Often overshadowed by bustling thoroughfares like Austin Street, Metropolitan Avenue boasts a rich tapestry of longstanding businesses, including Aigner Chocolates. As Aigner’s owner, Rachel Kellner, underscores, community engagement is paramount. 

“I think because people that own small businesses tend to live, work and enjoy themselves in the community,” Kellner said. “They’re more incentivized to make a bigger impact. For me, I live here, I work here, I spend almost all my time here, my son’s school is here. So, for me, I recognize that what I’m doing is not just helping my son, but it’s helping all of the kids here on Forest Hills in a variety of different ways.  I think the world would be a better place if everyone cared a little bit more about the community, that they are a part of, because I believe that if everyone does a small part, it makes a big impact.”

Beyond crafting delicious confections, Aigner’s commitment to social responsibility shines through its extensive engagement with local schools, nonprofits, and hospitals. Through fundraisers, Aigner’s not only raises vital funds but also fosters a sense of unity and collaboration within the community. Whether it’s sponsoring Little League teams or contributing to hospital initiatives like SOS Day, Aigner’s embodies the spirit of giving back.

Aigner’s dedication to tradition and innovation ensures its status as a beloved local institution, proving that small businesses can make a significant impact. Courtesy of Aigner Chocolates.

“We also are involved in beautification projects, and we work with the Forest Park team, and one of the things we started working on with local elected officials is doing a monthly cleanup,” Kellner said. “So, every month we clean up the avenue. But in addition to that, I’m out there sleeping trash up multiple times a day.”

As Aigner’s continues to thrive, it remains deeply rooted in its traditions while embracing innovation. All chocolates are crafted on-site using antique equipment and time-honored recipes passed down through generations, ensuring a taste of nostalgia with every bite. 

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