When Kopper’s chocolate sweetened Greenwich Village

-By Brian J Pape, AIA, LEED-AP

“”The mouth-watering aroma of melting chocolate pervades the Kopper Company’s factory at 18 Waverly Place, where European-style candies are made for sale in retail stores in many parts of the country. The confections, with which we first became acquainted at Altman, are of twenty varieties which the firm manufactured in Germany before its establishment in that country in 1938” (Jane Holt, New York Times, May 8, 1944).

Kopper’s Chocolate Specialty Co. was first listed in the New York City telephone directory in 1938, when it was located at 225 Greene St. in Soho. Kopper’s was founded in 1937 by Fred “Pappi” Stern (1895-1970), who fled Nazi Germany with his family, and a partner, David Kopper (1895-1962). In 1939 the company moved to larger premises at 18 Waverly Place near Broadway and NYU, where the business grew and prospered.

When that partnership dissolved, they sort of allowed the company to continue with the Kopper name, although by the early 1940s David Kopper had his own separate company, D. Kopper, Bonbonniere, producing hand-molded chocolates at 217 W. 80th St. in Manhattan.

A former Kopper facility at 18 Waverly Place is now part of the NYU campus. Credit: Brian J Pape, AIA

With success came the need for more space, so in 1980 they moved to 39 Clarkson Street (c.1920) in the West Village, just north of Houston Street. Stern’s daughter, Lorie, married Harold Ludwig Alexander (1923-1997), who was considered one of the world’s most dynamic and creative chocolatiers during his years working with his wife at Kopper’s. Later, Lorie and Harold’s children, Leslye Alexander and Jeff Alexander, continued Stern’s tradition of using the highest quality ingredients, old-world sophistication and attention to detail when crafting over 300 delicious varieties of chocolate.

“All of Kopper’s candies, including Amaretto Cordials, Rainbow Raisins, French Mints, Creme de Menthe Cordials, Candy Coated Almonds, and Crunchy Punch, are made by ‘”” The resulting ‘dragees’ (pronounced ‘dra-zshay’) are wrapped in plastic or sold in bulk, destined for the glass tubs of candy stores where an employee will pick up a pound or two as ordered'” (Betsy Wade, New York Times, November 15, 1987).

18 Waverly Place was purchased by NYU and now serves its Torch Club facilities, but has, to all appearances, been faithfully preserved in its original character.

39 Clarkson Street, Kopper’s six-story, 30,000-square-foot home, was sold to Penn South Capital, an investment firm, for $27 million in 2019 after Kopper left. Less than two years after purchasing the property, a buyer approached Penn South Capital with a cash deal which closed in 30 days on September 9, 2021. Penn South Capital sold this office building for 45.9 million dollars to this group of strangers. Middle Eastern investors doing business as Vanquish LLC.

Kopper’s was located at 39 Clarkson from 1980 to 2019. Credit: Brian J Pape, AIA

Ossea, LLC has leased its space to operate a full-service restaurant on the lower three floors of the newly renovated 39 Clarkson Street, consisting of a basement (4,624 square feet), first floor (4,803 square feet) and second floor (4,803 square feet), approximately 14,230 square feet in total, for a total capacity of 102 places; it is also planned to have sidewalk cafe seating. As well as a full liquor license, they will serve seafood dishes by a well-known Michelin star chef, aided by a general manager with extensive experience in the hospitality industry.

Today, Kopper’s is owned by family-owned Nuts.com, located in Cranford, New Jersey. Kopper’s still upholds all of its traditions and continues to create delicious gourmet treats, but the Village no longer carries its mouth-watering aroma of chocolate.

Brian J. Pape is a citizen architect in private practice, serving on the Manhattan District 2 Community Council Landmarks Committee and Quality of Life Committee (speaking only in his personal and unofficial capacity), co-chair of the American Institute of Architects NY Design for Aging Committee, is a member of the AIANY Committees on Historic Buildings and Dwellings, is LEED-AP “green” certified, and is a journalist specializing in architectural topics.

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