Arnold Confectionery Celebrates 75th Season to Make Chocolate Dreams Come True
The smell of homemade chocolate hits your nose the second the doors open at Valos Chocolates.
Eyes are drawn to decorated tables and shelves filled with nuts, cherries, raisins, pretzels, caramels and chocolate-covered grapes.
Such has been the experience of Arnold’s Confectionery along Freeport Road for decades.
Teresa Fazio, who has worked at Valos since the late 1980s, said consistency has been a major factor in the company’s success.
“I think it’s about sticking with the quality of the ingredients and not changing the recipes,” said Arnold resident Fazio. “Customers are very loyal and loyal. I love interacting with customers. It is convenient. It’s always fun to help make someone’s vacation special.
Valos Chocolates is in its 75th season of making delicious memories.
State Representative Carrie Lewis DelRosso, R-Oakmont, presented owners Karen and John Mandak of New Kensington with a citation marking the milestone on Tuesday afternoon.
DelRosso said she often buys Christmas gifts and candy from Valos for her family and offices.
“It’s important to support small businesses,” DelRosso said. “It’s delicious. I love it. They’ve got a ton of variety here. They’ve held their own through the pandemic and any kind of economic development, I support them. Their business has expanded through most of Pittsburgh.
The chocolates are sold at more than 20 retail outlets, including Giant Eagle, Community Market and Shop ‘n Save stores in the Alle-Kiski Valley.
Hundreds of pounds of chocolate are melted daily to create various creations.
Pecan turtles, peanut butter fudge (super chewy chocolate), and coconut bars are some of the best sellers.
Newer creations include sea salt caramels, peanut butter cups and fudgy pretzels.
Karen Mandak said marketing has played a big role in the store’s growth over the years.
“I’m just getting your name out there,” she said. “The biggest problem has been having groceries, which in turn has increased foot traffic to the store. … You have to get people to buy it, and if the product is great, they (come back It’s a seasonal business, it’s (the) ideas (for candy) that you come up with, and you make them and see how they sell.
The original Valos House of Candy opened in 1947 when the late Theodore “Ted” Vasilopus brought his knowledge of candy making to Arnold. In the 1930s, he learned the trade by working in his uncle’s confectionery in Chicago.
The name Valos was derived from the Greek surname of Ted.
Ted and his wife, Rose, ran Valos House of Candy until Rose’s death in 1984.
Valos remained closed until 1988, when John Mandak bought it – with the stipulation that Ted teach him his confectionery secrets and methods.
“When I first bought the place, I had no idea how badly I was going to need him,” Mandak said. “He was 80 years old and I had so much knowledge that I would need.
“It wasn’t like, ‘Here’s a recipe, go for it.’ There’s so many tricks and so many different things and nuances that you had to learn and I was lucky that it stayed with me for three years.
“There are things we make now that we make exactly the same way he did when he made chocolates, but we added a lot (other) things along the way.”
Mandak said the family considered expanding the menu and having different sections in the store, but chose not to fix what wasn’t broken.
“I thought about adding ice cream and building a cafe and things like that,” he said. “We just make chocolate and that’s it.
“I think it’s (better) to pick one thing and try to do it better than anyone else. Don’t try to do a lot of different things. Just focus on one thing and do your best.