STATEN ISLAND – George Katsoris, 94, affectionately known as George Kaye, will always be Staten Island’s premier chocolatier, and the borough’s most famous candymaker.
After suffering from a long illness, Katsoris died on Friday at Staten Island University Hospital in Ocean Breeze.
As president of Supreme Chocolatier in Bloomfield, Katsoris worked at the more than century-old business until he became sick, said his wife of 63 years, Evangeline Kaye Katsoris. “My husband was going to die at his desk at 100 years old. …He should be remembered for his innovative ideas, and for the courageous development of his business,” she said.
“He was always trying new methods of manufacturing, which in many cases, he had licensing for the United Sates only, and as a result he was able to get orders from the largest manufacturers in the U.S., like Russell Stover, Godiva, Target, Walmart and more,” Evangeline added.
BUILDING A CHOCOLATE EMPIRE
The family-owned business was started in 1911 by Katsoris’ father, Emmanuel (Michael) Katsoris in Port Richmond Square on Richmond Avenue and Richmond Terrace. His father called the business New York Confectionery. Later, Katsoris and his brother, Peter, joined the the business, which went through name changes as it evolved and grew.
When the company went into the fruit-preserving business, it was renamed the Superior Fruit Processing Co., then Superior Fruit and Confections. The final umbrella was Supreme Chocolatier, which includes Blum’s of San Francisco and House of Bauer, as well as Superior Confections’ brands.Katsoris served at the helm of the company with his sons, Michael and George, and his wife.
Fast forward to 2001. Katsoris developed Southport Plaza in the office park, a state-of-the art, 192,000-square-foot building on 13 acres of property. Half of the building is occupied by Supreme Chocolatier.
“We use 100,000 square feet for our manufacturing,” said Evangeline.
In addition, Katsoris spend many years traveling all over the world, visiting chocolate/candy factories and returning to the states with new ideas.
“In business, you have to try to grow. If you don’t grow, you’re going in reverse, really,” Katsoris told the Advance in 2009.
“What keeps me alive is working every day. Having something to do. Truthfully, when you give birth to a baby you don’t like to leave it. You’d like to keep it as much as you can.”
CANDY HALL OF FAME
He was honored for lifetime achievement and inducted into the Candy Hall of Fame in Cleveland in October 2009.
The induction into the Candy Hall of Fame was the pinnacle of his career, said his wife.
“I enjoy every day in this business. It hasn’t always been easy. There are days when it has been difficult, like any business, but you weather the storm and keep going,” Katsoris told the Advance in 2009.
“It’s a wonderful thing when you are the captain of the ship. And, I’ve been the captain of a couple of ships,” he said.
The other ships Katsoris refers to include 17 years of service on the board of directors of Gateway Bancorp, Inc., the holding company of Gateway State Bank. He also was elected chairman of the board in 1993 and served until the bank was sold in 1995 to Staten Island Savings Bank (now Santander).
In addition, Katsoris was founder of the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, and a member of the Candy Executive’s Club of New York. A member of the National Association of Candy Manufacturers, he earned the 50 Year Membership Award from the Philadelphia Candy Association, and Export Achievement recognition from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Katsoris was also a founder of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association and the Holy Trinity-St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and Cultural Center.
Katsoris briefly was involved in politics, and was elected Democratic County Committeeman for the 31st Election District in 1981, serving for one term. In 2008, he was honored by the Anthony R. Gaeta Democratic Club of Staten Island.
In addition to public service and numerous community works, he was a pioneer in land development on the Island’s West Shore, when the city first created the Staten Island Industrial Park in the late 1970s. Upon the suggestion of then-Borough President Anthony Gaeta, Superior brought property on Industrial Road in 1978, moving his business from 240 Center St., Richmond, after 50 years there.
In addition to his wife, surviving are: two sons, Michael and George Jr.; a daughter, Melanie Katsoris Wambold; five grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter, who was born the day after Katsoris died, said his wife.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Harmon Home for Funerals, West Brighton. The funeral will be at 9:30AM on November 7 at Holy Trinity-St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Bulls Head. Burial will be at Moravian Cemetery.
This obituary appeared in the Staten Island Advance.