According to the Rev. George Livanos, in his blessing during the grand reopening dedication on Friday at Canonsburg's most well-known business, “Sarris Candies is about putting smiles on children’s faces—young and old alike.”
And that they did. A new-and-improved version of the beloved chocolate castle and icon of Sarris Candies was revealed yesterday and drew gasps from the audience of local officials, friends of the Sarris family and the media.
Standing 12 feet high, 8 feet long, and 3 feet deep, the 2,600-pound chocolate and candy castle is something to rival Cinderella’s palace. It is hand-sculpted with a variety of textures and adorned with plenty of candy confections as well as white chocolate animals placed throughout the edible fantasy land.
“We had a mandate from Mrs. (Athena) Sarris to create a fun, carnival theme,” said Keith Evans, architectural designer of the castle. Evans is a custom craftsman and artist by trade who has worked on special projects for the Sarris family for 20 years and is a resident of Canonsburg.
The chocolate castle took the eight-person design team more than 2,000 man hours to complete in three months to have it ready for the grand opening. For their work—Sarris has a cost of $130,000 for the chocolate castle listed on the fact sheet.
At the center of the castle sits a 2-foot-high model of an old-fashioned carousel, not made of chocolate, but handcrafted just the same. The castle design team of eight people found the idea on Ebay in an old Hammacher Schlemmer catalog, no longer in print. The head toymakers from a company named Suba were about to retire but agreed to make one last custom carousel for Sarris.
The carnival theme doesn’t stop with the castle and carousel. The whole confection room is surrounded by 65 feet of beautiful hand-painted wall murals depicting a circus train ride through Candyland. Pittsburgh artist Maria DeSimone-Prascak painted the wall murals with an animated dream-like quality that takes everyone back to their happiest childhood memories.
“It was difficult to create the mural without knowing exactly what the castle looked like, and visa versa,” said DeSimone-Prascak. She went to the candy store for inspiration, took in the colors, and used glitter and crystals to add a magical feel to the scene.
“This was the most fun I’ve ever had and the largest scale project I’ve ever done,” she said. “I am honored that I was able to do this for the Sarris family and can’t think of a better way to culminate my 30th anniversary in business.”
DeSimone-Prascak has done work for the Sarris family over the years through her custom artwork and mural design company, Maria’s Ideas.
DeSimone-Prascak will be at Saturday’s grand opening activities from 1 to 3 p.m. with her husband, Johno Prascak, whose Pittsburgh Skyline painting is featured on a limited edition Sarris Candies box.
Huge stuffed animals, 3-foot nutcrackers and a pair of actual carousel horses also contribute to the authenticity of the carnival atmosphere.
In addition to the castle room, the remodeled Sarris Ice Cream Parlour sparkles with old-fashioned design and the elegant taste following in the Sarris family tradition.
“It’s so nice that they try to stay local,” Evans said.
The handrails were custom-made by a company in Cuddy, PA, and the etched glass in the booths was designed by Emerald Art Glass on the South Side, which will also be doing custom Tiffany lamps with an ice cream theme to add above the booths.
Sarris will be open Saturday from 9 to 9 and Sunday from 10 to 9.