Grand reopening of Sarris Candies a sweet deal

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"It's candy!" shouted Aaron Hofbauer, 5, of Bethel Park, as he stared up at the new 12-foot chocolate castle towering over Sarris Candies in Canonsburg. Green and pink bow-tied frogs sat at the foot of the castle among sparkling white horses and sprinkled spires. He took his cousin, Charles Hegedus, by the hand, their teeth still stained from "Candy Man's Dream" sundaes, as they leaped in circles through the newly stocked candy.

The castle was unveiled Friday at a grand reopening for Sarris Candies, whose candy store, ice cream parlor and second-floor production area were damaged in a Feb. 3 electrical fire. Though initial estimates said the store would reopen days after the fire, water and smoke damage required the shop to be stripped clean. The fire caused $7.5 million in damage, according to owner Bill Sarris.

"We were devastated," recalled Carolyn Hegedus, Charles' mom.

As befits a shop that has served as post-soccer game destination and teenage hang-out for generations of residents, the grand reopening was a family affair. Presiding was the Rev. George Livanos, who was slated to offer a traditional Greek Orthodox blessing but ended up holding a 20-minute service. Despite the rain, cars were parked hundreds of yards down Adams Avenue.

Inside the store, visitors enjoyed free ice cream as they marveled at the restoration. A new train mural adorns the wall and a self-playing piano tinkled in the background. "It's about the same, but brighter and better," said Manuel Pihakis, whose son gave Frank Sarris a kidney and whose daughter-in law manages the ice cream parlor.

Barbara Luckhard ate a sundae with her husband and grandchildren while she recalled the discounted chocolate Frank Sarris offered her for fundraisers at the preschool where she worked in Peters. Apart from employing generations of residents, the Sarris family donated to a public library in Canonsburg and kidney clinic at UPMC that now bears Mr. Sarris' name.

When Sarris Candies needed help after the fire, the community returned the favor. Employees gave 14-hour days to the clean-up effort, working alongside neighbors and restoration specialists to extract water and merchandise.

"This place has been a major force in our community," explained Canonsburg's mayor, David Rhome. "They employ hundreds of people. It's a tourist attraction. And it brings smiles to everyone's faces."

In the back of the candy store, a new community took shape. Fred Buterbaugh, of Disaster Restoration Services, stood with electrician John Lewandowski, cable technician Mike Clutter and Dennis Sroka of Sarris Candies. Unknown to each other before the fire, the group had grown close during the restoration.

"A lot of people here became my friends," said Mr. Buterbaugh. "I'll come back."

businessnews - neigh_washington

Benjamin Mueller: bmueller@post-gazette.com, 412-263-4903.


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