Editor’s note: This is a weekly series focusing on the importance of buying local.

It would be an understatement to insist businesses are facing unique challenges this Easter, but a couple of Washington County candymakers are getting creative with ways to Be Local when filling baskets.

Debbie Sargent, owner of Pink House Chocolates in Finleyville, is not one to make light of a global pandemic, but to help her customers cope, she introduced a line she dubbed “2020 Easter Quarantine Treats.”

At Pink House, shoppers will find some of the chocolate rabbits sporting handmade face masks over their cellophane wrappers. There’s also a masked Easter Bunny who totes a basket studded with white miniature marshmallows that mimic rolls of toilet paper.

Meanwhile, bottles containing solid milk chocolate balls are what Pink House calls a “Quarantine Blues Remedy.”

Sargent, who purchased Wagner’s Chocolate nearly a decade ago and painted the building bright pink, said one mom told her she was buying a Quarantine rabbit to show her young daughter that even the Easter Bunny – like many out-of-school pupils – is doing something different this spring.

Sargent said she simply wanted to “make a statement of what our new normal has become” for Easter this year.

Pink House, she said, has assembled more custom baskets this year for those who are looking for one-stop shopping. On a single day in late March, she produced a dozen of them in the $20 range.

She’s also offering curbside service through Easter at the chocolate boutique near Route 88 railroad crossing.

For families who want kids to learn something about melting points, she has devoted one room of the Pink House to supplies for do-it-yourself endeavors.

“We plan to stay open unless forced to close,” she said as April arrived. For those who visit in person rather than online, there’s also an ice cream counter, although seating is no longer available in the age of social distancing.

“I’m grateful we’re still able to stay open,” Sargent said. “There’s a decent amount of traffic coming through here. People like to come in and browse to see what we have.”

Stopping by the Pink House showroom also reveals the chocolate-covered pretzel tray, a variation of something usually reserved for cookies. She accents the arrangement with colorful foiled chocolates. And thepinkhouse.biz website has details about its certified vegan line that it says is committed to the sustainability of cocoa farmers.

Meanwhile, across Washington County, online sales of Easter candy “have been booming” according to Bill Sarris, owner of the eponymous emporium in Canonsburg, which is currently closed to the shopping public.

“We’re just swamped with online sales.”

So why did Sarris switch to store pickup orders only for three days last week?

The candymaker was “catering to local customers only,” he explained before launching the innovation he featured March 31-April 2. As in Easters past, there are hundreds of chocolate figures available in the store that shoppers peruse, looking for that special shape to delight someone because it’s so personal. These treats are not part of the typical online experience, and lest anyone be unhappy about that, a notice on the website apologized for the inconvenience.

For those three days, the website featured a special online 33-page catalog with lettered and numbered pictured selections – like that chocolate Scottie dog (a spaniel was item number K-9) or green frog that viewers could browse, then call an 800 number to place an order over the phone and pay by credit card. Employees would collect the items and ready orders for curbside pickup at 511 Adams Ave.

On April 3, the usual online catalog resumed.

Sarris Candies are also sold at many supermarkets and a host of other retail outlets. School groups and other organizations got the ball rolling with Easter-oriented fundraising drives while winter was still with us.

Sarris said things “are going as well as they can be,” adding that he’s appreciative of the “many employees (who) stayed and are working on shipping orders.”

Those interested in joining the Be Local Network can contact Chris Slota at 724-225-1326 or by email at chris@belocal.net. Discount cards are available at the Observer-Reporter and Almanac office, 122 S. Main St., Washington.

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