Highland Chocolates and socks pic

From left, Brenda Bonafair of Unique Source, the parent organization that Partners in Progress belongs to, poses with John Cronin, (center front), his father and business partner, Mark Cronin (back) and PIP executive director Irene Morgan at an open house Saturday, May 29 for Highland Chocolates new location in Wellsboro.

The new Wellsboro location of Highland Chocolates may be selling more than chocolates sometime soon. Socks may find a place next to truffles and pretzel bark.

Why socks? The owners of John’s Crazy Socks, of Melville, N.Y., were on hand at Saturday’s open house to explain.

According to Mark X. Cronin, father of the business’ creator, John Lee Cronin, they are looking to expand their business reach to Wellsboro.

John Cronin, who has Down syndrome, came up with the idea of selling socks online after he couldn’t find a career or a job after he graduated from high school.

At age 21, his father said, he was “looking around to see what was available” and “didn’t like what he saw.”

“He’s a natural entrepreneur,” Mark Cronin said of his son, and added that John eventually decided instead of looking for a job, he would “just make one.”

John’s first idea, to have a food truck, ended up being cast aside because the pair discovered “we can’t cook.”

So by Thanksgiving of 2016, the socks idea took hold. “The socks will always let me be me,” John said.

The pair decided to create categories for their socks, including Down syndrome awareness, first responders, patriotic and animal designs. John said his favorite socks are the Down syndrome awareness design.

“We had a name and we set up a website and got some inventory,” Mark Cronin said.

With the help of Brenda Bonafair of Unique Source, an organization that partners with member agencies (like Partners In Progress, which operates Highland Chocolates) to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities, the socks took off and now the two are looking to expand the business.

“I am very proud of my son,” Mark Cronin said. “He is showing employers that hiring people with disabilities is good business,” he added.

Now, John’s Crazy Socks is doing business nationally, offering more than 2,300 different socks, with most of their sales coming during the Christmas holiday shopping season, Mark Cronin said.

They have appeared on several national news shows and magazines, and have testified before Congress twice advocating the rights of the disabled, as well as before the United Nations. They donate 5% of their earnings to the Special Olympics.

They also raise money through their Sock of the Month Club for charity partners Autism Speaks, the Autism Society of America, the National Down Syndrome Society and the Williams Syndrome Association.

The business also has a Facebook page, Instagram account and YouTube channel.

For more information or to purchase a pair of John’s Crazy Socks, visit www.johnscrazysocks.com.

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