The Papas Candy Company was established by Christus “Chris” A. Papas, a Greek immigrant from Macedonia. Papas immigrated to the United States in 1909, settling in Cincinnati. He married Lillian and they had 6 children: Katherine, Alex, Gloria, Betty, Rita, and Joyce. While living in Cincinnati, he and his son Alex worked cleaning furnaces and delivering coal. In his spare time, Papas would make candy in the basement of his home that he would sell on street corners.
By 1928, Chris Papas was ready to enter the candy business as a full-time venture. Around 1928, he opened a candy shop near Cincinnati’s Music Hall. After spending some time living and working in Cincinnati, the Papas family moved to Covington. In 1935, he opened Lily’s Candy Shop, named in honor of his wife. The shop was located on Ninth and Madison and the store flourished, offering chocolates, ice cream, and a soda fountain. Chris Papas retired in 1951 due to health issues.
Chris’ daughter Katherine Papas Hartmann took over operation of Lily’s, while his son, Alex took over the wholesale business, located on Baker Street. He named this end of the business, Chris A. Papas & Sons.
Under Alex’s leadership, the business grew exponentially. He hired brokers to distribute his candy and he designed and helped construct manufacturing machinery for the Baker Street plant. Alex Papas also purchased several other candy companies, including one in Cincinnati that made marshmallow-filled chocolates. Among his purchases was the Putnam Candy Company in Cincinnati, which he acquired in 1967. According to tradition, Putnam Candies brought the opera cream recipe to Cincinnati from France.
In 1958, Alex began making marshmallow-filled eggs as well as his dark chocolate eggs filled with opera cream. These became staples of the Papas & Sons Company, making them best known for their Easter candies.
Chris Papas died in 1984 at the age of 90. He lived more than 30 years after retiring to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, proud of the success of both Lily’s and the Chris Papas & Sons Company. He is buried at Highland Cemetery in Fort Mitchell.
Alex then handed the business over to his sons in 1986. His son Carl became President and son Chris became Vice President. Lily’s Candies operated until 1987 when it was sold to the Chris A. Papas & Sons Company.
"One day after Christmas, the Papas family begins hustling to fulfill candy orders for Easter". During this time, more than 80,000 candy eggs are made each day from 1,000 pounds of chocolate, 1,600 pounds of sugar and hundreds of pounds of other ingredients!
As the Cincinnati Enquirer once declared, “Even though he doesn’t wear a bunny suit or floppy ears, Mr. Papas might be the closest thing we have to a real Easter Bunny.”
Visit our Faces & Places database for more Papas photos!
(1981, February 9). Lily’s. The Cincinnati Post, 1C.
Fairbanks, Anna Guido (1992, January 7). Made in Kentucky – Papas Candy Eggs Fill Easter Baskets. The Kentucky Post, 10K.
Martin, Chuck (2002, March 27). Family Hatches Grade A Easter Eggs. The Cincinnati Enquirer, E1, E2.
Wecker, David (2003, November 19). Jewels in Covington’s Crown – City is Home to a Wide Variety of Enterprises. The Kentucky Post, K1.