One of the Mahoning Valley's premier chocolate companies announced it's stopping production at the Market Street factory, pending an ongoing sale to new owners. 

The announcement, which came in the form of a press release, isn't sitting well with the owners of the Howland and Austintown locations. They told 21 News they were blindsided by this decision and it's now leading to a lot of confusion for thousands of customers. 

"We started hearing rumors from customers coming in," explained Lori Gavalier, Owner of Gorant Chocolatier of Austintown.

"As all of our loyal customers found out, we also found out as independent franchise owners here in Howland," said Ed Ridenbaugh, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing of Gorant Candies of Warren. "It was not to our knowledge as to what was going to be transpiring."

Gorant's press release explains, "Two licensee stores, located in Austintown and Howland, currently operate under the Gorant brand. Both of these locations will transition to private, individual brands in the coming months.," according to Angela Miller, Owner of Gorant Chocolates.  

"We were interested in buying the brand at one point in time but that has since gone away since they are in the closing point with the owners," Ridenbaugh explained. 

The Howland location relies on the headquarters to provide about 25% of its production. The store produces the other 75% of it's product, which is the original formula from when the company was founded. The last Gorant descendent, Perry Macheras, the nephew of Charles Gorant, is the current owner of the Howland location.

Austintown's Lori Gavalier told 21 News they rely on the Boardman location for 100% of their supply. They're concerned about what the future looks like.

"As they're making changes and going through a transition, we're really eager to meet with the new owners," she explained. "We've asked who the new owners would be, but none of that is being disclosed yet."

Franchisees are trying to stay hopeful but there are many unanswered questions. Could they work with the new owners? If so, will the formula change? Where will Austintown get its supply? Can they keep the Gorant name?

"We are hoping the new owners will take the opportunity to reach out to us and get to know us on a personal level," Ridenbaugh explained. "Hopefully, we will undergo a joint effort with them to continue to build this brand and the Charles Gorant legacy in the Mahoning Valley."

21 News reached out to Gorant's owners who are based in Wooster and they declined an interview. The press release reads, "I anticipate not only a smooth transition, but also additional job growth as they take Gorant to a new level,” said Owner Joe Miller. “None of this would be possible without the amazing support of our local community. Gorant was created by family and that will continue, as this next group upholds those same values, standards, and traditions.”

Austintown's location received a large shipment from the headquarters prior to the closure announcement, so they believe they will be well-stocked for some time. 

"We will still have Gorant candies and have enough that will last us a while through this transition," Gavalier said. "There's always different possibilities. We want to form a good relationship with the new owners right from the very beginning." 

The Rt. 224 location will close its doors after the Mother's Day holiday. The corporate store location at 8301 Market Street in Boardman will remain open. 

Gorant Chocolates was started by Charles and Sam Gorant in 1949. The company has not been owned by the Gorant family since the late 1980s.