On Tuesday, October 22nd, I had one of the best days I’ve ever had in public relations. You see, it was the grand reopening of The Madelaine Chocolate Company.
Why reopening? Based in Far Rockaway, this 65-year-old, 3rd generation family business was completely destroyed one year ago by Superstorm Sandy. Founded by Holocaust survivors, Madelaine grew to become a $37 million business with over 400 employees— making it the largest employer in the Rockaways. They produce the wonderful foil-wrapped chocolates you are all familiar with—turkeys and coins for Halloween, Santas for Christmas, eggs and bunnies for Easter…you get the idea.
When Sandy was finished blowing everyone’s houses down, there was 5 feet of water in every corner of the 200,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. Inventory was ruined and sensitive molds and equipment were totally lost. In short, the business was gone. This was the only client I ever met with where I ran out of tissues because the owners were crying throughout the meeting.
Yet, thanks to the indomitable spirit of CEO, Jorge Farber, Madelaine gradually put the pieces back together. A federal SBA loan for $13 million helped immeasurably, as did other loans from bankers who believed in this company. Thanks to their efforts, 125 employees have been rehired, machinery has been repaired, and chocolate molds have been rebuilt. A month ago, Madelaine was operating at 15% of normal capacity. Tuesday it was at 50% and they fully expect to return to full scale operations within 12 months.
So, putting this grand reopening together was a labor of love. Everyone was smiling, from the 125 employees who are back at work to journalists and politicians. Jorge and his wife Vivian were bursting with pride. But, I’m willing to bet the biggest smiles belonged to the Holocaust founders who were looking down with pure delight.