LOWER EAST SIDE — Economy Candy founder Morris “Moishe” Cohen, who started the business nearly 80 years ago died Friday morning, an employee confirmed.
“It is with great sadness and fond memories that we share with the Economy Candy family that we lost Morris "Moishe" Cohen, the Original Candy Man at the age of 97,” the store wrote on its Facebook page. Cohen died in his sleep from natural causes, according to his family.
Cohen was born in 1917 and emigrated from Salonika, Greece to the Lower East Side, said his grandson, Mitchell Cohen — who now runs the store — in an email.
“Nono, as we all lovingly referred to him, was am amazing grandfather, a loving father and the best story teller around,” he said.
Cohen opened the business as a shoe and hat repair shop in 1937, with a pushcart that sold candy but became a full-fledged candy shop when Cohen and his brother-in-law returned from World War II. Today, the Rivington Street store sells hundreds of types of chocolates, candies, nuts and dried fruits, according to the its website.
Manager Ray Andujar, who has worked at Economy Candy for 25 years, called Cohen a “great man” who made his employees “feel like you were part of the family."
Andujar, who was 15 years old when he started working at the store, said Cohen looked out for his workers and always told him to stay in school and out of trouble. One memory, in particular, stands out, Andujar said.
"When I worked with him in the morning…he would always bring a cup of coffee for himself and one for me. He would do that every morning when he came in. He says ‘Ok Ray, let’s start our day,’ [we'd have] a cup of coffee and then we’d start our routine," he said.
Andujar said he did not know how Cohen died, explaining that he wanted to respect the family's privacy while they mourned.
"You always remember him as a man full of life and just always happy," Andujar said. "He was always joking aroud with everybody."
Economy Candy will be closed on Feb. 8 to honor Cohen’s life, the store announced on Facebook.