Mill Basin nurtured them, and now they’re returning the favor.
A pair of native Mill Basin restaurateurs joined forces with Citymeals on Wheels to deliver supper to nearly 100 seniors residing in their old stomping ground on Jan. 12.
The brothers, who built a Brooklyn soup empire before opening three Zagat-rated restaurants in Manhattan, said that the gesture was their way of giving back to a neighborhood that’s full of fond memories.
“Almost everybody around the world is very sensitive and proud of where they came from, and Mill Basin has always had a very warm place in my heart,” said Jonathan Schnipper, co-owner of the Schnipper’s Quality Kitchen restaurant chain. “I haven’t lived there since the late ’80s, but every few years, I feel the need to go back, just to drive through where I grew up. I think it’s more of a sentimental place than anything else.”
The Schnipper family made its home on 56th Drive near E. 66th Street on Mill Island, where Jonathan and brother Andrew recall playing stick ball with their pals and trekking to their go-to hangout, Kings Plaza, Andrew said.
“We lived in Kings Plaza,” he said. “There wasn’t a weekend we weren’t there.”
As adults, the duo left Mill Basin and went into business together, eventually founding the popular Brooklyn soup purveyor Hale and Hearty in 1990.
The restaurant, which they based largely on the premise that soup, despite popular opinion, is hearty enough to constitute a full meal, became a hit, and the brothers sold the business that’s become ubiquitous with drinkable lunches throughout New York in 2006.
The siblings immediately went about planning their next venture in the food world, and, in 2009, they opened the first Schnipper’s restaurant, an American-style burger joint, in Manhattan. They now own four locations in the distant borough.
Last fall, the pair got involved with Citymeals on Wheels, a non-profit that delivers food to qualifying seniors on weekends and holidays as a complement to the city-funded Meals on Wheels program, which delivers prepared food on weekdays.
The Schnippers recently raised nearly $9,000 for the program’s Sweet September fund-raising campaign, where restaurateurs donate a portion of their dessert proceeds to support the charity, according to Andrew.
“We donated a dollar for every milkshake we sold,” he said. “We sold a lot of milkshakes that month.”
But the Schnippers wanted to do more, so they signed up to participate in Citymeals’ Chefs Deliver program. Organizers asked the brothers where they’d like to send their dishes, and it didn’t take long for them to decide, Andrew said.
“So, when Citymeal’s said ‘Is there any part of the city that has meaning to you?,’ both of us immediately said it would be great if we could prepare meals and have them delivered where we grew up,” he said.