In 1931, Hoboken was a very different city than it is today. There were fewer commuters, more Italian delis, a lot more parking spaces, and no public waterfront. There was also Schnackenberg’s, an old-fashioned soda shop that closed its doors for the first time last summer. But now “The Schnack,” as it was affectionately called, is back.
The descendents of the original Schnackenberg’s, who came to Hoboken from Germany in the early 20th century, recently sold the business to Eugene and Joyce Flinn, who own the Elysian Café and Amanda’s. Since then, the Flinns have been on a quest to bring some measure of modernity to the shop, located on the 1100 block of Washington Street, while maintaining its classic feel and nostalgic atmosphere.
“A lot of people we spoke to when we were planning the renovation told us that they’d had their first dates here, or come with their friends,” said Joyce last week. “We didn’t really want to create something new. Where we didn’t have to change anything, we tried not to.”
A slice of Hoboken history
For instance, the iconic Coca-Cola sign that hangs over the sidewalk was given a new coat of paint but not replaced. The intricate tile floor remains with a few new sections here and there, and the twirling stools were reupholstered but still shine like they did the day they were installed. And the section of the front windows that boasts the Schnackenberg name have been preserved from the original panes, while the rest of the window was replaced.
Many of the devices behind the bar are period-friendly as well. The seltzer machines are original and refurbished, and there’s a radio that dates back to the early part of the century.
“Where we didn’t have to change anything. We tried not to.” – Joyce Flinn
“People used to call places like this ‘joints,’ ” said Eugene. “It’s a place where you come to spend time with each other. We want it to be a real Hoboken joint for everyone.”
All things considered, it’s a perfect plan. The Schnackenberg name even means “a place to come and chat” in German, Flinn said.
What’s new, and what’s the same?
Schnackenberg’s new menu, like the rest of the project, will be a mix of old and new. Customers will still be able to get a classic ice cream soda, burgers, and sandwiches, but they’ll also have new-age choices as well, like gluten-free items. It’s still going to be a place where you can grab a cup of coffee on your morning commute, said Joyce.
“There’s not a lot of places uptown to get a good breakfast, so we want to serve that purpose as well,” she said.
Mark Novak, whose mother, Dorothy, inherited the shop from her parents years ago, will continue making the chocolates that were a mainstay of Schnackenberg’s. The family was consulted in the renovation process and will still play a large role in the shop’s day to day operations.
“We feel really honored that we were entrusted with this,” said Eugene. “We have a responsibility to maintain it I think. They could have sold this space to a bank or a nail salon, but they wanted Schnackenberg’s to remain so that’s what we’re doing.”
The Flinns said that they’ve planned a soft opening for Thanksgiving week, with a grand opening planned for some time in early December.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at email@example.com