CHICAGO – Melvin Gordon, who helped turn the enduring popularity of the humble Tootsie Roll into a candy empire, has died. He was 95.
The longtime Tootsie Roll Industries Inc. chairman and CEO died Tuesday in Boston after a brief illness, said Brooke Vane, a spokeswoman for the company's public relations firm. Gordon ran the Chicago-based confectioner for 53 years, overseeing the manufacture of 64 million Tootsie Rolls a day and other sweets including Junior Mints, Charleston Chews and Tootsie Pops.
The penny candy patriarch worked a full schedule until last month, the company said.
Gordon celebrated the Tootsie Roll's 100th anniversary in 1996 by touring the Chicago factory with an Associated Press reporter. He boasted that Tootsie Rolls were almost indestructible.
"Nothing can happen to a Tootsie Roll. We have some that were made in 1938 that we still eat," he said.
Gordon, a Boston native, married into the business in 1950 when he wed Ellen Rubin, whose father, William Rubin, was president of Sweets Co. of America. Gordon changed the company's name to Tootsie Roll in 1966.
His wife, Ellen Gordon, has been named chairman and CEO by the board, the company said. She had been president and chief operating officer.