Stephen Klein, a Jewish chocolatier, immigrated from Austria in 1938 and founded the Barton’s Candy Corporation with the help of his brothers and partners. In a 1952 issue of Commentary magazine, Klein said the goal was “to make each piece of candy attractive. You should keep wanting to eat more and not get tired.”
Between 1962 and 1970, Cy Glickman was one of the owners of the Rego Park outpost, which operated into the late 1980s. Glickman and his wife Gail moved to Rego Park in 1962, leasing an apartment at Walden Terrace and purchasing the store.
Their son Bobby was born that same year, and worked at the shop when he was just four years old, acquiring firsthand experience in customer service, inventory, and operating the register for $1 an hour.
“It was a family affair with my dad’s mom, his sister, and my mom, as well as a few employees,” said Bobby.
However, Barton’s history in Rego Park dates as far back as 1950, when it was located a block west at 97-01 Queens Boulevard. Two other branches in operation were adjacent to the Forest Hills Theatre on Continental Avenue and on Queens Boulevard and Union Turnpike in Kew Gardens.
“The chocolate was from Switzerland and was top grade,” said Cy. “Barton’s had two factories on DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn.”
Patrons were welcomed to Cy’s shop by a sleek Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern storefront with a steel neon sign and a large candy cane door handle, which was a popular feature for Barton’s storefronts. Facade panels were designed to resemble candy, and the aesthetics carried into the interior.
“This was a place to buy special treats for special occasions,” said Bobby. “The store was fancy, and dad improved it with shelving, mirrors, and polish.”
Bobby said his father was enthusiastic, opening the shop at 8 a.m. and closing at 10 p.m.
“The public went out each night to stroll, and in the early 1960s evening business was brisk,” said Cy. “For an evening social visit, customers would pick up a box of candy at $1.98 for a pound of chocolate, plus six cents sales tax.”
Favorites included Almond Bark Bar in dark chocolate, solid chocolate in small blocks, and mint chocolate buttons. Barton’s also sold collectibles, such as menorahs, goblets, decorative plates, and dolls.
Barton’s whimsical and colorful tin cans are now regarded as collectibles. Among them is perhaps the most memorable design, which features a cartoon-like illustration that captures street life, which Bobby retained in his collection with vintage photos of the Rego Park shop.
“I often shipped candy boxes upstate to neighborhood kids at camp, or even to soldiers in Korea, Japan and Germany,” said Cy. “The fanciest candy in the store was the marzipan from Switzerland, which was shaped like fruits and other foods, and sold at $3.98 per pound. It was strictly for the older folks.”
Barton’s even produced its own ice cream, which was available in pints for 65 cents and as sandwiches for 15 cents.
“It wasn't a drugstore, but a place where the product was pure heaven, like selling Coca-Cola,” said Bobby, who said his favorite jobs were cleaning the abundant glass with Windex and winding the outside awning to shade the chocolate in the afternoon. “The chocolates tasted and smelled like nothing you can imagine.”
Barton’s allowed Cy to meet everyone from patrons to fellow shop owners.
“We shared the task of snow removal and had coffee when the neighborhood was bustling and peaceful,” he said.
“My dad was a sweetheart to all, and that is why everyone in the family wanted to work for him,” added the younger Glickman. “Walking around the neighborhood where everyone knew and liked your dad was a warmhearted feeling for a kid.”
But changes in the company, demographics and personal tastes eventually spelled the end for Barton's in Rego Park. However, the company's products are still sold across the nation and can be found on Amazon.
“Barton’s broke the franchising contract by marketing their candy at Alexander’s, and changing styles spelled the end of high-end chocolates in a new immigrant community,” Cy said.