Once Upon A Time…

By  |  2 Comments

The Fairytale Beginning

Once upon a time, in a magical place called Canonsburg, not far from the once dirty, smoky city of Pittsburgh, there lived a dashing young Greek man, named Frank Sarris…known often simply as the “Candy Man”.

 

 The-Candy-Man

Harry and Demetroula Sarris of Rhodes, gave birth to their son, the Candy Man on September 22, 1931. Being born and raised in America, it wasn’t long before his eyes were cast upon a Greek American woman he thought to be a goddess—Athena. Athena’s family had come from the neighboring island of Crete, but like Frank, Athena was born in America.

The dashing Frank Sarris was love struck and knew he had to do something to impress the beautiful Athena. In the quest to win her heart, he presented this goddess of a girl with a box of chocolates. He had succeeded in impressing her, and that was the beginning of a fairytale relationship. Neither one of them, however, were impressed with the chocolates. They both knew they could make a chocolate of better quality.

It is always said that certain minutes in the moment, shape the hours of our future. And that moment, in which Frank presented his princess Athena with a box of chocolates, the paths that they would travel together opened up. It was that box of mediocre chocolates that took them hand in hand down two pathways in life, one that lead to a happy marriage and a family, and the other that lead into creation of the magical Sarris Candies chocolate kingdom.

 

castle

 

Frank knew he could make a better chocolate product, and with the lessons given to him by longtime friend and mentor John Macris (a fellow Greek) he gave birth to a basement business where he created chocolates for friends and family. He and Athena worked in the basement of their home until 1963 at which time they built their sweet candy shop next door. It was hard work. Frank found himself working a full time job during the day and then making candy with his wife in the evening. In five years time, they demolished that small shop and created a larger one moving into an apartment above the store.

 

 shop

 candy

With dedication, hard work and talent, the “Candy Man” became very successful. The once tiny shop is now over a city block in size, has a spectacular chocolate castle inside, and over 350 employees with approximately $16 million in annual sales.

 

With Charitable and Entrepreneurial Spirit

Mr. Sarris, “Candy Man”, was also known as “Can-Do Man” for his many charitable contributions. He was a big supporter of many of the University of Pittsburgh’s programs including the Library Fund, the Athletics Department and the Panther Club Athletic Scholarship Fund. Following his kidney transplant in 2002, Frank participated in many organ donor awareness events and made a generous 5 million dollar donation to the Thomas E. Starzl Legacy Endowment that underwrites basic science research at the transplantation institute.

 

Photo–Pittsburgh Post Gazette

 

2002 saw him awarded the Washington & Jefferson College Entrepreneur of the Year and in 2003 Washington County Philanthropist of the Year. He also was nominated for the Retail Confectioners International and National Confectioners Association Candy Industry’s Kettle Award. In the year 2001, he was named Pennsylvania Small Business Person of the Year and a finalist for the National Small Business Person of the Year, receiving the award directly from then president, George W. Bush.

Frank passed in March of 2010, but his spirit, and concern for others lives on in his family. The Sarris family continues to support many charities including many of Frank and Athena’s favorites: Washington County Humane Society, Washington County 4-H Washington County, The Kidney Foundation of Western Pennsylvania, Animal Friends, Canonsburg July 4th Parade, Canonsburg Hospital, The Washington Hospital, American Hellenistic Education Society, Canon McMillan scholarship Fund, and the many school and social groups supported in numerous donations, tuitions and foundations.

 

Bill Sarris and the Company Today

 

Photo--sbonline.com

Photo–sbonline.com

Today, Frank and Athena’s son, Bill, is the President of Sarris Candy and continues to run the business with the family values it was built upon. Bill oversees the business alongside his mother Athena and with the help of other family members, including his sister and brother-in-law, Sophia and Steve Heon, and his daughters, Athena Sarris-Simms and Candace Sarris.

 

Photo--Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Photo–Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Like father-like son, Bill also is both charitable and entrepreneurial in spirit. In 2014, he was named the EY Entrepreneur of the Year in the Western Pennsylvania & West Virginia program.

Before Frank passed, Bill assisted in transforming the company from a local business into a corporate empire. Sarris candy underwent 9 major additions and expansions to the retail store including the 1982 addition of an ice cream parlour. In 1997, Bill negotiated Sarris Candies’ acquisition of Gardners Candies, a failing chocolate company in Central Pennsylvania to further increase Sarris production capacity and outreach.  Bill successfully reestablished Gardners Candies as an entity in Central Pennsylvania.  Sarris and Gardners now work together simultaneously in efficiently manufacturing and distributing product nationwide.

 

ice_cream

In addition to retail sales at the company store, purchases can be made thru the website, and Sarris candy is available in over 1200 locations in more than ten states including many supermarkets, hallmark shops, and specialty retailers.

 

lineworkers

worker

 

Charity seems to find it’s way into everything at Sarris, and recently this January, as a joke, Bill, put a photo of a dented chocolate football called the ‘Bradie Ball’ onto his Facebook page to poke fun at the New England Patriots’ “Deflategate” scandal. (Just before the sport’s championship game, the Superbowl, the Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was accused of using underinflated footballs giving him an advantage. It was quite scandalous in the sport of American football.)

 

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

footballpatriots

 

The ‘joke’ turned into a fundraiser that raised $20,000 for charity. Not the first football fundraiser, as Sarris candies also worked with the Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers football team, and his Foundation to raise money for K-9 units nationwide.

Sarris Candy also has an exemplary of fundraising programs that have helped and continue to help others achieve their financial goals.  Bill sees that this program, which started 50 years ago, continues strong.

 

 turtles

 

Despite the availability of Sarris candy, especially through out Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio and West Virginia, people still travel many miles to visit Sarris Candies’ company store and ice cream parlor.  This writer included, and what a fun visit I had there. I felt like a kid excited about being among the many choices there. I was happy to leave with my favorite and one of their biggest specialty items of chocolate covered pretzels. A very popular item in the ice cream parlor is their hard cap ice cream in which luscious melted chocolate is poured on top of the ice cream hardening upon contact and forming a delicious hard shell. It is heaven on earth. Believe me, I ate the whole serving myself.

 

pretzels

 

The Sarris Candy story is a fairytale love story, a story of the American Dream, and a story of a successful family that defines itself not by the success of their hard work and dedication but rather by the goodness and success in their hearts. Franks spirit lives on in everyone he continues to help thru his eternal charity, and in the chocolate covered face of each smiling child in the store. The Sarris family through their good deeds and their out of this world chocolate—will continue to make the world a sweeter place.

 smile heart

Photos (unless otherwise noted) and information used with permission of Sarris Candy. 

 

th-4

To learn more or for on-line ordering, visit Sarris’s website by clicking here.

 

tribute

Watch a Video Tribute

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Lena

    March 21, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Wish more people were like this!

    • admin

      March 22, 2015 at 4:40 am

      You are right Lena. The world would be a sweeter place::):)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


3 + = 7

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This