2017 Lifetime Achievement award winner

Harold and Lorie Alexander

Koppers Chocolate
Lifetime Achievement

Koppers Chocolate was co-founded in Manhattan in 1937 by Fred Stern, who had fled Germany before the start of World War II with his young family. His daughter, Lorie, grew up in his Greenwich Village candy business and married Harold Alexander, a German refugee. The couple eventually bought out her father and refocused production on panned chocolates, small confections also known as dragées.

Koppers made chocolate lentil candies before M&M’s hit the market and was also a pioneer at the first Summer Fancy Food Show in 1954. The Alexanders continued to return every year thereafter. In the mid-1990s, Lorie and Harold’s children Leslye and Jeff Alexander took over the company.

Inspiration… Leslye Alexander says her parents were passionate about the specialty food business and the Fancy Food Show in particular (Harold died in 1997). Both were creative spirits. In fact, her mother pursued a career as an artist while maintaining a strong influence over the family-run company.

“Harold’s philosophy in business and life was perseverance,” Leslye says, adding that he also loved to play in the candy kitchen, Willy Wonka-style, coming up with concoctions that seemed crazy at the time, such as chocolate-coated espresso beans. If only he’d patented it, she said, recalling how he laughed about making a lot of other people rich.

The Alexanders traveled the world to find new flavors and ideas, inventing more than 300 varieties. They even had the foresight to specialize in gourmet dark chocolate back when milk chocolate was vastly more popular. 

Impact… Harold and Lorie Alexander treated their vendors like partners and developed relationships that lasted for decades, Leslye says. Many of their chocolate factory employees stayed for 25 years or more. 

In addition, Harold was a mentor to people entering the industry, including his own daughter. For example, Leslye suggested Koppers produce chocolate-covered gummy bears. Her father was skeptical, yet showed her the way and told her to go for it. The line has proved to be a big success. 

The Future… In 2016, the Alexander family sold Koppers Chocolate to Jeffrey Braverman of Nuts.com, another third generation, family-owned company. Koppers is now based in Cranford, N.J.