By Jerry Del Priore
Just like many other high seniors, Kenneth “Coop” Cooper took a part-time job at Crown Trophy in Forest Hills, Queens, to help cover the expenses for his senior prom.
Little did Cooper know that his award-making occupation would turn into a passion, and something he’s still partaking in today with his business, On Your Time Awards, producing some of the most elaborate, eye-popping pieces around.
“That just started out as an accident,” Cooper recollected of his first job with his then-assistant basketball coach at Canarsie High School, Glen Ford. “I just wanted to get some money for my prom, and go out and do the things I like to do for prom. And one thing kind of rolled over to the other. It has worked out extremely well.”
17 years later, Cooper, who says he’s the man behind the wrench, still has a passion for his profession. But that wasn’t always the case.
“This was the most embarrassing thing to say when you go out on a date,” he quipped. “As those checks starting to come in, I started to realize this is what’s up. It went from confident to cocky, saying, ‘Yeah, that’s what I do.’”
Cooper, 33, now hobnobs with several well-known celebrities and top people on the hoops tournament circuit, all because his trophies are described as sites to behold, earning him praise from his clients and onlookers on a regular basis.
Part of the Canarsien’s creativity is due to happenstance, when one typical weekend day, he stumbled onto something unique.
“The creativity came from one Saturday of me making trophies when I was just lollygagging around,” the Morgan State graduate said. “I made a trophy backwards (on accident). We all came in on Monday, and said, ‘That looks pretty slick.’
“Our thing was, if we created something and put it on floor, whatever we sold, we got about 25 to 30 percent of it,” he added. “That trophy sold the most for two summers straight.”
Basketball trophies aren’t the only awards Cooper fashions, however. He makes trophies and awards for baseball, football, wrestling, cookoffs, and all sorts of sports and competitive tournaments.
But that’s only part of his story. Not only has the award business and basketball provided Cooper with better financial means, it has bestowed his life with purpose and direction, with Ford and his former high school head coach, Tommy Allen, playing a huge part.
“To be honest with you,” Cooper gladly admitted, “I sit and think about this: if it wasn’t for him (Ford) and the trophy shop, ideally meeting him in high school with Tommy Allen, and those guys taking me to another level in basketball, I really don’t know where I would be in life.
“I’ve been through a lot, and trophies have always been there,” he continued. “Anytime I was ever in a situation financially, that life was there. Anytime I was just in the wrong space, as we all do as a young man growing up, not understanding what am I going to do, if I go left or right, when I sat at the table, it was just trophy time. And everything was just clear.”
While On Your Time Awards warrants a lot of Cooper and assistant Antonio Rodriguez’s time, with a good portion of the approximate 7000-8000 awards made per year in the summer, it has taken a toll on his body. But he said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It has developed more into a life,” he said. “I have paid a price for it. Physically now, my hands (hurt), but it’s something ideally I would do until my hands fall off at this point.”
Follow On Your Time Awards on Instagram @OnYourTimeAwards.