Hildebrandt's holds on to sweet traditions as soda shop's future remains uncertain

WILLISTON PARK, New York -- Since 1927, Hildebrandt's, an iconic soda shop located in Williston Park, has been a beloved gathering spot.

It's a place where generations of families have created traditions, whether it's purchasing the shop's homemade chocolate bunnies for Easter or ordering an egg cream to wash down a burger and fries.

So loyal customers were shocked when the shop announced last summer via Facebook in a now-removed post that it would close within a few months.

The post went on to say that prized vintage objects such as a wooden phone booth and a Coca-Cola soda dispenser would be sold, each essential elements of the shop's old-school character.

Eight months later, however, the shop, which has been run by the same family for 47 years, still stands.

The trouble began when the building was placed on the market and sold, and now, Hildebrandt's managers are bracing for a rent increase they say could put them out of business.

"We have tried to do landmark status," said Thomas Bauman, Hildebrandt's manager. "It is in the works, but even with that, the rent doesn't change. It may have to stay looking like Hildebrandt's, but it wouldn't be us (running the shop) it would be somebody else."

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Bauman has worked at the shop for more than 35 years and treasures the bond he's formed with regular customers.

While the future may look bleak, Bauman is staying focused on keeping Hildebrandt's humming along.

The owner's daughter, Hunter Acosta, who can often be found behind the candy counter, is grateful to customers who created a petition to keep the store alive.

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'We've been sold for some time," Acosta said. "To see so many people sign a petition, comment on our Facebook, talking about how much they support us and how much they love us, it was really nice to see."

Even as employees of Hildebrandt's have accepted their fate, customers have kept coming in to grab a bite and a milkshake, just in case it's their last chance to savor the place.

"I would say I'm a regular I come here two to three times a week," said David Klebanow. "I would be disappointed and everybody would be disappointed if they were no longer here. They feel like family to me."

Acosta wants to be surrounded by her family and friends who have supported her family's business since 1974.

"I don't know how I'm actually going to feel when they lock the door for the last time," Acosta said. "At the same time, I'm just enjoying every last milkshake and every last sundae I can have."

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