At the start of 2008, sisters Gina Masi, Maria Masi and Aurora Hirschfeld purchased the Sundae Palace from the woman who had owned it for the past 35 years. The name and business stayed the same, but the sisters have been doing everything they can to bring the long-standing business up to its full potential.
The store offers everything anyone could need in terms of chocolate supplies – they do everything from taking orders and creating the pieces themselves to selling chocolate and molds to customers and teaching them how to make their own from home. They also have a display case of little goodies like truffles which can be wrapped in a decorative box for any occasion.
All their products are nut and gluten free, with an option to even be dairy-free. They use only Mencken chocolate, which, they say, the best for molding.
“You can get chocolate at places like A.C. Moore,” Hirschfeld said. “But it’s all different. This is what gives us superior quality product.”
The family’s love for Sundae Palace started at a young age. For Gina, getting the store seemed like fate.
“When I was ten years old I wrote an article in Kidsday in Newsday about the store,” she said. “At that time it had recently opened. It was just, wow, because years later there I was sitting at the closing on the store.”
Born and raised in New Hyde Park, the sisters went to the store as children, but moreso when they were older and started doing chocolate molds for family parties.
“I would go there to buy supplies and always come back saying how great it would be to own the place,” Hirschfeld said.
For 5 years the sisters would ask the owner about buying the store, until one day she finally decided to sell.
“Her daughter had just graduated college,” Hirschfeld said. “She let us buy it because she wanted it to stay the way she and her mother had run it, and knew we were committed to keeping it a family run store.”
The sisters put down their deposit for the store at the annual street fair in September of 2007 with the deal completed by January.
“It was very emotional,” Masi recalled. “We were so excited, but Nancy (the previous owner) was very distraught. It was her store with her mom and her daughter grew up in here.”
The most common requests are always the expected – Valentine’s Day, spring holidays like Easter, Passover and first communions are always popular. But one quirk of the job is designing molds for theme parties.
“One book club was reading 50 Shades of Grey,” Masi said. “We had to make some…naughty molds for that.”
Another odd, but less uncomfortable, theme was a 21 birthday party with a bull riding theme. “We had to make the bull with red eyes,” Hirschfeld said. “The box had red lining under it, and they had us put in straw.”
Other fun ones were a masquerade-themed sweet 16, where they made chocolate faces with masks, a martini party for a 70 birthday where they put green chocolate in martini glasses and a Louis Vuitton themed party.
For all the sisters, the career change was a welcome one. Hirschfeld had developed a career in the toy business, working for Mattel and Hit Toys for 15 years.
“It was great,” she said. “With toys I could create and have fun, but this is where I was meant to be.”
For Gina and Maria Masi, the switch was a little more drastic. Maria was an investment banking officer and Gina Masi was – and still is – a full time bank compliance officer.
“I come from Manhattan and only work here on weekends,” Gina said. “It’s my release. It’s my break from the craziness of Manhattan and my job. It doesn’t even feel like work, it feels more like a hobby.”