BY RACHEL JONES
PHOTOGRAPHS BY CAYLA ZAHORAN
Growing up in Washington, Pa., Sarris Candies has played a delicious role in some of my greatest memories. From sharing the Odd Couple sundae with my boyfriend, to nibbling away at a Peanut Butter Meltaway Egg at Easter, Sarris has always been there. As I swap stories with Athena Sarris and her granddaughter, Athena Sarris Simms, they both smile. “That’s so heartwarming,” says Athena Sarris Simms. “That’s exactly what my grandfather (the late Frank Sarris) worked so hard for when he opened Sarris Candies.” Working as a fork lift operator, Frank would make deliveries for his candy-making friend on the side. Intrigued by his friend’s sweet paycheck, Frank considered a career change. “Well, he was either going to make candy or be a barber,” explains his wife, Athena Sarris. “Thank God he picked candy!” We’re all thankful the book-taught chocolatier found the perfect recipe for smooth, rich chocolate. A candy that can slow down time with one bite. A candy that, since 1963, has been a favorite for thousands of locals, including Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney. As I stand in the Canonsburg confectionery, wrapped in the warm, intoxicating smell of chocolate, I’m taken aback — just as I was on my first trip — by the explosion of goodies packed in the shop. The old-fashioned ice cream parlor, complete with crystal chandeliers and retro red booths; the display case of delicate, specialty chocolates; the racks of uniquely shaped and individually wrapped chocolate cut-outs; the zoo of plush, stuffed animals; the 1,500-pound chocolate castle, complete with working carousel; the life-sized reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh — no wonder Frank bought the houses next door to the original shop to stretch the space into a full city block! But the sweetest treat at Sarris Candies is nostalgia. “That’s what we strive to do,” says Athena Sarris Simms. “We want to be a part of your family, and we’re proud to be part of your memories. We love having an impact on something so special.”
WHIRL: What’s your favorite Sarris Candies memory?
ATHENA SARRIS: “Every night, Frank would close up and bring me a sundae. Vanilla ice cream with butterscotch sauce. My favorite is vanilla because you can put anything on it, and it’s still good.”
ATHENA SARRIS SIMMS: “When my grandparents lived above the shop, and my sister and I would come visit, we would sneak down in the dark and make these gigantic sundaes with six scoops of different ice creams, all the toppings we wanted, and tons of whipped cream. I know they knew we were doing it. But it felt so sneaky because it was closed!”