KDKA's Jon Delano spoke with the president of Sarris Candies, Bill Sarris, about how the candy industry is doing more than a year into the coronavirus pandemic and the industry's plans to bounce back during the Easter season.
- This is the "Sunday Business Page" with Jon Delano.
JON DELANO: Good morning. I'm Jon Delano. Welcome to another home edition of the "Sunday Business Page." And our very special guest today is Bill Sarris, president and CEO of, of course, Sarris Candies. Hey, bill. It's nice to be with you today.
BILL SARRIS: Hey, it's great to be here. Thank you.
JON DELANO: Well, as you know, this is the start of Holy Week. It is a religious time of year. But boy, you can't think of the Easter season without thinking of chocolate and candy. So let me ask you, how important is this time of year to your business?
BILL SARRIS: The candy industry right now, you know, it's time. It's one of the biggest candy seasons of the year.
JON DELANO: You've just been through a pandemic, and we're not really quite over it yet. Did the pandemic take a toll out of the confectionary business?
BILL SARRIS: It definitely affected the business, especially brick-and-mortar stores, OK, because they were closed. They couldn't let people in. So the candy industry, as far as it went, they had to innovate, OK, "innovate" meaning selling online, curbside pickups, all the things that were presented to us, and still trying to make your customers happy.
JON DELANO: But of course, we all still like chocolate no matter what. And Sarris's is famous for that. Were you able to maintain business during this period, keep people employed, or was it a challenge?
BILL SARRIS: The challenge was getting people to employ. We had a very difficult time getting people to come to work-- fear, government telling people to stay home, things like that. So it really put us in a bind as far as production went. And we're finding out across the industry that that's really something.
And the other issue was supplies-- very difficult to get supplies because companies weren't working-- boxes, paper, ingredients, things like that. It's just, you know, it's been a really struggle. But we're getting through it.
JON DELANO: Well, I guess that's my question. Now that Easter is almost upon us and people want their chocolate bunnies, are things improving a good deal now?
BILL SARRIS: They are. Things are slowly improving as far as everything that we just discussed. Production people are getting back to work. The key is getting people back to work. Once that happens, you'll start seeing better. I mean, it's the sale-- it's not sales. It's getting people there. Shipments coming from overseas, you see they're all backed up, things like that, so it really is. It's a domino effect.
JON DELANO: Well, there's no doubt that Sarris Candies, you're so identified with southwestern Pennsylvania, this region. I know you're spread out all over. But the fact is that your dad, Frank, who was beloved by many-- many of us had the pleasure of knowing him over the years-- I mean, you guys have built a great Pittsburgh-based company.
Do you think that these kinds of Easter seasons-- I mean, this is like-- like, maybe Valentine's is the same way-- we think candy. But we really think it around Easter. So is there anything special going on right now that you would like to tell us about with respect to Easter chocolates and the like?
BILL SARRIS: It's just getting the basics into people's hands, you know. Let's get bunnies, let's get crosses, let's get little novelty items. You know, a lot of that stuff, you know, we really weren't-- some of this stuff we weren't able to produce because of just the times-- again, people.
But, you know, we're getting there. We're so excited that this thing is coming to an end, we hope, that, you know, we're preparing, really, for next year and what we're going to do to make sure that we don't get in the situation that we're in. I mean, we're hiring people every day.
JON DELANO: Well, Bill Sarris, it's always a pleasure to be with you, sir. Thank you for the update. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Easter season. Thank you again for being with us.
BILL SARRIS: It's a pleasure, anytime.
JON DELANO: And thank you for watching us on the "Sunday Business Page." If you have a suggestion for a guest, get in touch with me at email@example.com. Have a great Sunday, everybody.