In July 1979, artist Randy Jones sketched “The Great Ice Cream Safari” comic strip for The New York Times, which featured an elephant touring ice cream parlors. Eddie’s Sweet Shop was saved for last, and a patron on a stool said “This antique parlor would make a fine trophy in the Smithsonian!”
That is just as true today, as patrons encounter vintage Coca-Cola signs and stained-glass windows reading “Candy” and “Ice Cream.”
Visitors can sit on the same cast-iron swivel stools their great-grandparents sat on and enjoy a sundae or a float at the mahogany-and-marble counter facing one of the first electric Frigidaire freezers.
The authentic ambiance also features a honeycomb-pattern mosaic floor, tin ceiling with rose-stamped molding, leaded glass windows with a sunburst-and-tulip motif, and tapestry appointed woodwork topped off by a wall clock made by the Seth Thomas Clock Company.
Built in 1925, around the mid-1940s the shop was renamed Witt’s Ice Cream & Confectionery after owner William Witt, a German immigrant. When Witt retired in 1968, he sold the shop to the Citrano family.
Giuseppe and his son Vito Citrano and wife Angelina are cherished Forest Hills personalities. Three generations worked alongside one another until Vito’s grandpa, also Vito, passed away in 1995.
“We feel so happy to see that Eddie’s Sweet Shop served generations of customers through the years we have been here,” said the younger Vito. “My father showed me not to be afraid to work hard. When it’s time to make hot fudge, I will keep stirring until it’s right, no matter how late it is or tired I am.”
“We had many proposals at Eddie’s, and the first wedding ceremony in front of our doors a few months ago,” added Angelina. “We were honored!”
Much of the shop’s history prior to 1968 is undocumented, but is being rediscovered thanks to the memories of patrons.
Michael Dillon has lived around the corner on Nansen Street since 1953, and after playing ball in the street with his friends, Witt’s was the go-to place.
“In the mid-60s while working at Associated Food Stores on Metropolitan Avenue, I was fortunate to deliver sugar and get a glimpse of all the wonderful ice cream-making machines,” he said. “The Witts were always such kind and lovely people, who always reminded me of the ideal grandma and grandpa.”
“My father, Joseph proposed to my mother Clara at Witt’s,” said Joe Burchill, who lived on Greenway Terrace. “It was a fine treat for our parents to take my sisters and I on a walk there in the summer, and we always sat in mom and dad’s booth, which was the first towards the back.”
John Mattis lived on Loubet Street and now lives near Tampa.
“I remember watching Mr. Witt pack the containers, really pushing the ice cream into them as hard as he could,” he said. “Later on, when I would get ice cream from other places and watched them pack it gingerly, I realized how much the Witts always did the right thing for their family of customers.”
Northern California resident Nick Covell feels fortunate to have lived in Forest Hills.
“I delivered the Long Island Press there in 1956,” he said. “When I collected for the 40 cents a week bill, Bill Witt used to give me a 35-cent malted for a tip, a big deal for a 13-year-old kid.”
Paul Hettler was raised on Kessel Street.
“My dad and I would walk there every Saturday, and he would buy me a vanilla ice cream soda which cost about a quarter,” he recalled. “A few years later, when I was old enough to walk alone, I would get the ice cream soda and give Mr. Witt a quarter. This went on for several weeks, when finally he quietly told me they haven’t been a quarter for several years.”
Nancy Jeanne O’Connor was raised on Manse Street between 69th and 70th avenues.
“Our Lady of Mercy had processions of the little girls, usually on Holy Thursday and the Feast of Corpus Christi, and many of us went to Witt’s afterward with our friends and parents,” she said. “Now my siblings and I have the pleasure of introducing the next generation to Eddie’s, and it is always a special treat for them.”
Phyllis Pellitteri Cush especially remembers marshmallow sundaes and quality time at Witt’s after swim meets at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs.
“My friends and I used to storm into Witt’s at one time and take over the whole shop,” she said. “Sometimes there weren’t enough seats for us. I cannot forget the icicles in our hair!”
Andrea Stone also recalled swim meets followed by banana splits and chocolate egg creams. Witt’s was also a tradition after middle-school dances at The Community House.
“I told a friend in Colorado that Witt’s is now Eddie's Sweet Shop, and he said that he can't wait to try it the next time he goes to New York City,” she said. “I love that it still looks the same.”