Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sweet on Tootsie Roll

By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post

As a Southwest Sider and a business owner, I have a lot of respect and admiration for Melvin and Ellen Gordon.

For the last 50 years or so, the Gordons have owned and operated Tootsie Roll Industries, Inc., headquartered right here on the Southwest Side at 7401 South Cicero.

They have employed thousands of local men and women over the years; and by all accounts I've heard, been a good neighbor and a good corporate citizen.

And of course, their products (from the original wrapped penny candy of 100 years ago to their many taste-tempting combinations of the 21st century) have brought smiles to the faces of millions, if not billions of boys and girls (not to mention moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas) over the years.

The question they first posed in fun in 1970:

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?

...has gently perplexed people around the world (including scientists).

The Gordons, like owners of many businesses large and small, choose to keep a relatively low personal profile---generally avoiding interviews with the press (especially the business press) and keeping Tootsie Rolls and all their other candy products in the spotlight, where they belong.

Fasano's fun, larger-than-life style.
That's not the only way for corporate leaders to conduct their affairs, of course. Some are high profile, make their names synonymous with their products, and enjoy great success in doing so. For example, Joseph "Joe Pies" Fasano did exactly that for 40 years with his product---arguably the best pies anywhere---and today his son, Peter Fasano, is building (and baking!) the same success with a high-profile, Bill Veeck-like style of super-size promotion.

I understand and respect both approaches. Trouble is, a few in the press do not respect the Gordons' style. I thought about that this week when I saw yet another grouchy, catty, sour-grapes story by a business writer from the Wall Street Journal---who apparently was so bitter about not getting an interview with the Gordons that he took a hissy-fit photo of the outside of the Tootsie Roll property, complete with a sign that says "STOP" and a high fence with barbed wire atop. Really.

I found it unworthy of the WSJ. Too bad its editors did not.

Granted, the Gordons certainly don't need a small business owner and neighborhood news publisher like me to defend them. I'm sure that over the years, they have developed skins as resilient as---well, as a Tootsie Roll, come to think of it.

And at their age, they have proven that they themselves have a long shelf life, just like their products. I think that's great. May all married couples enjoy such longevity and success.

So today I hope you will join me in raising a glass---or better, your favorite flavor of Tootsie Pop---to Melvin and Ellen Gordon. May you, your family, your employees and Tootsie Roll Industries continue to prosper right here on the Southwest Side for years to come.

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1 comment:

  1. A friend's brother, who worked at Tootsie Roll, died a couple of years ago from cancer: The Gordons both took the time to show up at his wake. The Gordons are a couple of real class acts in my book.