Melvin Gordon Is Dead At 95; Led Tootsie Roll Industries

by Hank Schlesinger and Nick Montano
Posted On: 1/22/2015

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TAGS: bulk vending, Tootsie Roll, Melvin Gordon obituary, Ellen Gordon, Tootsie Roll Industries, Dubble Bubble, Concord Confections, Tootsie Roll chairman

bulk vending, Tootsie Roll, Melvin Gordon
PHOTO: Melvin and Ellen Gordon of Tootsie Roll Industries.
BOSTON -- Melvin Gordon, the head of Tootsie Roll Industries Inc. for more than half a century, died on Jan. 20 here. He was 95.

The Tootsie Roll chairman and chief executive ran the Chicago-based confectionery company for 53 years, overseeing the manufacture of 64 million Tootsie Rolls a day and other sweets, including Junior Mints, Charleston Chews and Tootsie Pops.

A 1941 graduate of Harvard College and a World War II veteran, Gordon first worked in the apparel industry. He entered the confections business in 1950 through his marriage to Ellen Rubin, whose father, William Rubin, was president of Sweets Co. of America. The name changed to Tootsie Roll in 1966.

The classic treat, introduced in 1896, was named after candymaker Leo Hirshfield's young daughter, Clara, whose nickname was Tootsie. "Nothing can happen to a Tootsie Roll," Gordon claimed in a 1996 interview. "We have some that were made in 1938 that we still eat. If you can't bite it when it's that old, you certainly can lick it."

In 1962, Gordon became chairman of American Sweets, and changed its name to Tootsie Roll Industries four years later. He moved the company from New Jersey to Chicago. Following the move was a string of acquisitions, most notably Mason Dots (1972), Cella's Confections (1985) and Charms (1988). In 2004, the company picked up Dubble Bubble, a popular gum brand in bulk vending, when it acquired Concord Confections.

Following Gordon's death, Ellen Gordin, his wife of 65 years, became Tootsie Roll chairman. She had been president and co-chief executive.

In addition to his wife, Gordon is survived by daughters Wendy, Virginia, Karen and Lisa, and six grandchildren.