‘Nobody Saw This Coming,’ Says Friend (Exclusive): 16 Handles Founder Was ‘Very Healthy’ Before His Death at 44

Solomon Choi’s friends and family are mourning after his unexpected death

Published Time: 28.06.2024 - 00:31:12 Modified Time: 28.06.2024 - 00:31:12

Solomon Choi’s friends and family are mourning after his unexpected death.

The founder of 16 Handles died on June 7. He was 44. His friend, Pedram Hendizadeh, a podiatric surgeon in New York, spoke with PEOPLE about the young entrepreneur’s legacy after his passing. 

“It was very, very shocking,” Hendizadeh says. “Solomon was very healthy, very happy, very upbeat, good energy. Nobody saw this coming.”

A cause of death has not yet been revealed.

While Choi’s loved ones grieve the loss, Hendizadeh says he is so grateful to have known him.“We're all very, very upset, but whoever spent time with him was a lucky individual, and I could tell you that I'm very, very proud and fortunate that he was a friend of mine,” he says.

Hendizadeh met Choi in 2015 but still learned new things about his friend at his memorial service, where Hendizadeh also spoke.

“I left the funeral inspired and I met so many other people whose lives he touched that I didn't even know he was friends with,” Hendizadeh says. “The place was packed. They had a tribute to his life on a screen. They showed moments of him as a child growing up, dancing, singing. 

“He had a great sense of style and someone said at the funeral, ‘Solomon could wear ripped jeans and make them look good.’ He just had that... He exuded confidence.”

Hendizadeh says that Choi always had “lofty goals and he reached them all.” Even after he sold 16 handles in 2022, he kept pushing forward to new opportunities. 

“He sold his business about a year and a half, two years ago, which was one of his goals. And I remember after that he got a little down. He's like, ‘I lost my identity. I was successful in one thing. Maybe I just got lucky. Maybe I won't be successful in my next venture,’” Hendizadeh recounts. “He got a little down, but that was f -

or a short time. And then he started speaking and advising other companies, other quick service restaurants and he felt very fulfilled doing that and he was very proud.” 

Delegating his time wisely was a hallmark of Choi’s happiness, his friend says.

“Even when we had lunches, we would meet at 12:30 for lunch, by 2 he's like, ‘I got to go.’  I'm like, ‘Wait, where are you going?’ He's like, Well, I'm sorry. I got to go pick up my son,’” he says. “He would always allot a certain amount of time and that's what I learned the most — that life is short and his passing is a testament to that.”

“He had a short time on this earth and he made the best of it. He did more in 44 years than five people do in a lifetime. He was very timely, he always watched his time, but perhaps he didn't know his time on this earth was short.”

Other friends and colleagues have shared their tributes to Choi’s legacy. Following news of his death, current 16 Handles owner and CEO Neil Hershman released a statement.

“We are deeply saddened by the unexpected passing of 16 Handles’ founder and former CEO Solomon Choi,” Hershman said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “He was a visionary who came to New York City in his 20s and founded this iconic frozen dessert brand. 16 Handles is where I got my personal start in franchising and I owe so much to Solomon for the opportunities, education, mentorship and friendship he provided me throughout the years.”

“Part of the mission statement for 16 Handles is to ‘create moments of happiness,’ and Solomon truly embodied this in his personal and professional life," he continued, "always sporting a big smile and optimistic outlook."

Related Articles

Follow Us