To save his family’s business, David Epner first had to melt it down. His father started the operation in 1910 with $600 to gold-plate jewelry and novelties. In the early 1970s, Epner capitalized on a chance meeting with a Xerox engineer to expand the company into a supplier of optical gold coatings for copy machines and, ultimately, aerospace hardware. But a blue-chip customer list wasn’t enough to offset poor management and a bloated and disgruntled workforce, and the company was ...

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