BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – Gorant Chocolatier was forced to close all retail stores this week, leaving half of their staff jobless amidst the growing coronavirus pandemic.
The retail stores did not fall under the essential category after Governor Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order on Sunday, which accounts for their largest chunk of chocolate sales.
The company said they will still be able to operate their factories, but they must pay careful attention to sanitizing procedures, checking temperatures and practicing social distancing.
Although the retail stores are closed, meaning customers cannot go inside them, independently owned stores like Austintown’s Gorant Chocolatier will still be selling product, just in a different way, like curbside pickup. They can be reached at 330-799-6000.
Another independently owned store is Howland’s Gorant Candies. They can be reached at 330-856-5043.
Joe Miller, Gorant’s president and owner, bought the company from American Greetings in 2009.
“2019 was especially rough for us after losing a key private label client,” Miller said. “We were just in the middle of trying to recover when the COVID-19 hit.”
Easter is the largest retail season for the company, with Christmas following as a close second.
Typically, Gorant’s offers private label manufacturing to fill in for the slower retail months, but many of those customers reduced or held their purchases after the outbreak.
“It’s because of our private label customers that we’ve been able to continue to maintain our brand and keep the lights on,” Miller said.
He doesn’t know if it is temporary or not and said most depends on whether or not they are able to sell through the Easter inventory this season.
In order to combat the loss of retail stores, Gorant’s is offering curbside pickup at their factory locations and free delivery within a 5-mile radius. Curbside orders can be placed on their website or by calling 330-758-4208.
“We knew that we had to, for everybody’s safety, but we still wanted our Easter tradition to continue as normal as possible. So this is why we are offering curbside service,” said Renee Thompson of Gorant Chocolates.
They are also currently offering free shipping on any purchase over $65 for the remainder of the Easter season.
The company has already assembled different care packages for hospital workers or those stuck indoors and is working on creating healthier chocolate for the “sugar-free sector” of their private label focus.
“We want to keep traditions and the original Gorant recipes alive, because it is so loved and treasured by the community,” said Angela Miller, vice president of marketing and retail sales for the company. “However, we also want to bring healthier choices into our stores, for those looking to reduce their sugar intake.”
She said they need to have a normal Easter season if they hope to continue to grow, and this is achievable with community support.
“Those of us left are still fighting. Our staff is amazing. They are so dedicated to this brand and to the company,” Miller said. “It broke our heart to go into layoffs and we want nothing more than to bring them all back and to keep this community icon around for many, many more years to come.”