Where could you — once upon a time – enjoy European pastries, cinnamon toast, and ice cream soda while you hugged a teddy bear? Rumpelmayer’s, of course. A very popular rendezvous for pampered New York children after a visit to the zoo or the ballet. I suppose adults could hug the bears too, but Rumpelmayer’s sweetness – its confections, pink walls, and shelves of stuffed toys — might close in on you if you didn’t hold fast to some grown-up habits such as cigarettes and highballs.
Rumpelmayer’s tea and pastry café began its Manhattan life in 1930 in the new Hotel St. Moritz on the corner of Central Park South and Sixth Avenue. The hotel almost immediately went into foreclosure though it continued in business. Oh, happy day when Repeal commenced in December of 1933 and the St. Moritz announced, “In Rumpelmayer’s, as in the Grill, we will feature a number of bartenders with Perambulating Bars, for serving mixed drinks.” Bars might be everywhere, but Rumpelmayer’s other attractions were not. For decades it provided a jolly spot for children’s birthday parties, lunches, late Sunday breakfasts, and afternoon teas and hot chocolates. It closed around 1998.
Always proud of its continental delicacies, New York’s Rumpelmayer’s was related (exactly how I’m not sure) to sister tea shops in London, Paris, and on the Riviera. The original Rumpelmayer’s was begun by an Austrian pastry cook in the German resort town of Baden-Baden in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. It then followed its Russian clientele to Cannes and Nice, then later to Mentone and Monte Carlo. In 1903 a shop was opened on Paris’s Rue de Rivoli (pictured, somewhat later) and in 1907 on St. James Street in London. Parisians, infected by Anglomania in the early 20th century, eagerly adopted the afternoon tea custom, in this case reputedly known as having a feeve o’clock-air at “Rumpie’s.” Though it was rated slightly less chic than the Ritz, it attracted mobs of fashionably dressed women who paraded their outfits up to the counter where, according to custom, they speared their chosen pastries with a fork.
In London before World War I Rumpelmayer’s became incorporated into the daily routine of the elite smart set who spent most of their time at the table, beginning with breakfast at 11:00, lunch at the Carlton at 2:00, tea at Rumpelmayer’s at 4:00, a stroll in the park, followed by dinner, then supper a few hours later. Although some Rumpelmayer’s survived well into the 20th century, the pre-WWI lifestyle that gave birth to them did not.
On tea shops and tea rooms, see also:
— Mary Elizabeth’s
— Vanity Fair, etc.
— Country tea houses
— Lord & Taylor’s Bird Cage
— Also, search for department stores
© Jan Whitaker, 2009
12 responses to “Sweet treats and teddy bears”
Lesley Hayward, loved reading about your memories of Baden-Baden! I go there regularly and there are still many marvelous pastry shops with café/restaurants. My favorite is the Café König–no teddy bears, but it is next door to a toy shop that sells lots of Steiff!
Hi, do you happen to know the name of the Austrian pastry chef of Baden-Baden who started Rumpelmayer’s? I have a hand-written and beautifully illustrated journal of Rumpelmayer’s dessert recipe’s. There are many of the Rumpelmayer Paris golden stickers on the inside covers. The name written in the front of the journal is: Charles Graf. The book is written in French. If you have any information, that would be great.
My understanding is that the founder was Anton Rumpelmayer, an Austrian confectioner. It could be that Charles Graf was an employee but I have not run across his name. Sounds like a wonderful journal.
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Thanks for the information. That place seems literaly like my cup of tea. I am a teddy bears fan and you could easily find me hug a teddy while enjoying a cinnamon toast…
By the way I’m not alone. There are many more crazy adults like me, who collect teddy bears and enjoy their company whenever they can…
Sorry to be using your website for this, but I am actually trying to get in touch with Lesley Hayward.
I am a horticulture student and am writing a dissertation on Alpine Lawns, using Anne Ashberry’s book as my starting point. I have been trying to find information on her garden and on alpine lawns in general but I have been told it is a dying practice. After doing some research I am hoping that Lesley Hayward is the relative of Anne Ashberry and could give me some information on Anne and her garden concept, and that she reads this!
I am Lesley Hayward and I am the great neice of Anne Ashberry. I am delighted that you are doing this research and I do have several of her books but unfortunately I was rather young to have any notion of the work she did.
I remember visiting and being enchanted by all the miniature gardens in sinks outside her cottage – indeed I have several sinks outside my house with little plants in them. I also have a miniature lilac tree of hers. I have no knowledge of her alpine lawns at all.
I am so sorry I cannot be of more help in this regard.
Ann Ashberry is a fascinating woman and well ahead of her time. She was the daughter of Russian Jewish emigrants Israel and Leah Annenberg] and was born in the east end of London along with her 11 siblings. She became an engineer and after the first world war actually ran her own company called Atalanta in London which was entirely women – they made aircraft parts and turned the metal on heavy industrial machinery – previously a province of men only! She was the first woman to be admitted to the Society of Engineers in 1924. What made her turn her hand to Miniature Gardens, I am not sure. She did make one for the Prinesses Elizabeth & Margaret though!
There is going to be an exhibition of interesting Essex Women and I was contacted by one of the organisers. Perhaps they will be able to help you – they have done a lot of research on Anne [born Hannah Annenberg]. If you email me on firstname.lastname@example.org & give me your personal email, I will pass on your message to them.
Good luck with your dissertation.
I really love to read your little stories here. About Rumpelmayer: His first café was in Baden-Baden, as you wrote, then he opened cafés in Cannes and in Paris. The other cafés in different countries were run by franchising partners. Greetings from Germany
Petra, Thanks so much for that additional information and Gruesse aus Neu-England! — Jan
Hi, I was looking for something about Rumpelmayer’s in Baden-Baden – it has been really difficult to find.
I went to Baden-Baden in 1962 during the summer holidays when I was 15. I lived with and worked for my Cousin Claus Dieter Neumark & his wife who managed the café. I remember going to market with his wife at dawn and buying fresh baby spinach, which we didn’t have in England. It was served with a poached egg on top or cheese!
I also remember the hot chocolate being made. First you took a very large pan and filled it with milk, then you melted real dark chocolate into it. It was served into a tall glass with a handle and Chantilly cream with chocolate grated on top. It was wonderful!
I used to help pack the handmade chocolates into beautiful boxes and then I delivered them to the kiosk by the casino where my cousin’s mother, Mimi, worked.
We ate our meals in the café but I don’t think I realised what an exclusive place it was. I went back there a couple of years ago but the name had changed and we couldn’t afford to go and eat there!
One day I will go again. I hope to find the graves of Mimi Neumark and Claus Dieter Nuemark and his wife, and put flowers on out of respect and fond memories.
That’s lovely. Thank you.
Just in case you are wondering, I am English but my maternal Grandmother was Miss Margaret [Greta] Neumark, who came to England with her parents from Oldenburg in 1894. She married Leslie Annenberg [later Ashberry], a cousin of Walter Annenberg. Greta was Mimi’s husband Willy Neumark’s first cousin. So Claus Dieter was my mother’s second cousin. The Neumarks were a large family originating from Wittmund.
I have fond memories of my Grandmother’s apple murbetieg – she was a brilliant cook.
I now live in the beautiful county of Herefordshire within walking distance of the Welsh border, with its many medieval castles and rolling hills.
All good wishes to all the foodies…