BOARDMAN, Ohio – With Easter candy sales stalled since the onset of the novel coronavirus, Gorant Chocolates laid off 24 employees Friday and is implementing curbside pickup and delivery service to sell off its substantial inventory.
The chocolate manufacturer furloughed half of its workforce in order to try to continue operations during the widespread pandemic, company officials said in a release.
“It was a very sad day,” he indicated. “People were crying and looking for reassurance that this was only temporarily. Unfortunately, we just don’t know. We need to sell through our Easter inventory to have a chance at making it through this,” said Joe Miller, president and owner.
While the factory, 8301 Market St., is permitted to continue operations as long as the strict sanitation procedures it already follows continue, employees’ temperatures are taken and social distancing is practiced, he said. Gorant retail stores do not fall under the essential need order as spelled out in Gov. Mike DeWine’s Stay At Home order, which cut off the company’s primary means of chocolate sales.
Gorant has four stores, one at the factory, a Canfield location and two that are independently owned in Austintown and Warren.
“Normally we’re close to being done with our Easter sales,” said Angela Miller, vice president of marketing and retail sales. “In order to keep all this moving forward, it is simply essential that we still have a normal Easter selling season.”
But with Easter only two weeks away, the factory has over 200,000 pieces of sweet items left to sell. Easter is Gorant’s largest retail season, with Christmas a close second.
Since the retail stores have closed, Gorant Chocolates is offering curbside pickup at its factory location, as well as free delivery within a five-mile radius. The company also is increasing its online presence at Gorant.com, offering free shipping for any orders over $65 through Easter.
Curbside orders can be placed online or by calling 330 758 4208, and picked up in front of the store. Angela Miller said special care packages also can be delivered, such as packages for health care workers, birthdays, family night, emergency chocolate packages and sweet sentiment for people staying at home.
“We build a large inventory between Christmas and Easter and it is integral for the operation of our business that we sell though our Easter inventory, so we have enough [revenue] to make it through our slower summer months,” Joe Miller said.
During a normal season, Gorant also offers private label manufacturing to fill in for the slow retail months. “The coronavirus pandemic caused many of our private label customers to reduce or hold their current purchase orders,” he continued. “So, when our retail stores closed, and purchase orders diminished, we had no choice but to lay off half of our valued employees.”
Remaining staff will handle curbside and delivery sales and other employees are making candy for fundraisers and a private label jobs.
Miller bought Gorant from American Greetings in 2009. In the early 2000’s, Gorant’s products were available in more than 500 corporate-owned American Greetings retail stores. They were known as Carlton Cards and Yum Yum Tree. Gorant also supplied more than 200 additional wholesale accounts nationwide.
When Carlton Cards became part of Papyrus, the decision was made to no longer sell chocolates in stores. With a factory designed to make chocolates for hundreds of stores, Gorant entered the private label sector.
“It’s because of our private label customers that we’ve been able to continue to maintain our brand and keep the lights on,” Joe Miller said.
Gorant was started by Charles and Sam Gorant in 1949. The factory here was built and opened in 1977. n 1982, Sam Gorant died. Four years later, Charles Gorant sold the company. Charles has since died.
“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 hearts 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.”
Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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