Sam Phillips is ready for a busy week.
"This week is our busiest week of the year; we are prepared for the big rush," said Phillips, president of Gardners Candies, Tyrone.
According to the National Confectioner's Association, Americans spent $2.1 billion on Easter candy last year, and it is projected to be even higher this year. The average person spends $28 on Easter candy. Chocolate bunnies are the biggest seller - 90 million were sold last year.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Milk chocolate bunnies are among the products Boyer Candy sells around Easter.
Easter is very big for Gardners.
"Easter is a tremendous candy holiday, and it ranks at the top of our list. We do well over $1 million at Easter. Between Easter and Christmas, that makes up 70 percent of our dollars," Phillips said.
Gardners expects to sell plenty of its popular peanut butter meltaway eggs but has something new to offer this year - chocolate iPhones, Phillips said.
Easter is the second busiest holiday at Boyer Candy Co.'s retail store in Altoona, said Rose Novitsky, office manager.
"It is a big deal for us. We start making the candy right after Christmas," Novitsky said. We sell a lot of molded candy eggs and the traditional rabbits. We sell eggs with different fillings such as coconut and peanut butter. The peanut butter eggs are the most popular."
Easter also is very important to Dutch Hill Chocolates, Altoona.
"We have three main holidays, Christmas, Valentine's Day and Easter. They are pretty comparable, but you produce and sell differently," owner Jerry Moore said. "For Easter, there are so many different items we have to make. We make eggs and chocolate rabbits in dark chocolate, regular chocolate and white chocolate."
We make rabbits ranging from 1 ounce to 1 pound. We sell peanut butter, coconut and fruit and nut filled eggs in 1 ounce, 8 ounce and 1 pound sizes."
Moore said production of Easter candy began right after Valentine's Day.
"Some years when Easter is early, we start before Valentine's Day. When Easter is late, it gives us more time to prepare. There is a theory that when Easter is late, we do better," Moore said.
Although it doesn't make candy, Easter is also important to Blair Candy Co., Altoona.
"Easter is a pretty big time of the year for us, but it is not as big as it was years ago. We do a fair amount of business at Easter and Christmas. We do a lot of sales on the Internet," President Pat Dandrea said. "Easter candy sales will be around $150,000."
Blair Candy sells a lot of jelly beans, marshmallow peeps, a variety of novelty items that the supermarkets don't have, hollow chocolate rabbits and chocolate crosses, Dandrea said.
Many local florists see Easter as a good holiday for business but not as important as it was years ago.
"Easter has fallen by the wayside as a huge holiday. People don't spend as much as for other holidays. It is not as big as it used to be. A lot of the tents have hurt our sale," said Alice Mulhollan, owner of Alice's Garden Florist & Gift, Tyrone.
Mulhollan hopes to sell a lot of potted plants like hyacinths, hydrangeas, tulips and daffodils.
"People don't send plants like they used to or they can get what they want at places like Walmart or Sam's Club at a lower price," said Lois Pulcinello, owner of Myers Bros. Florist, Altoona. "We sell fresh cut flower arrangements and a variety of plants such as Easter lillies, tulips and hydrangeas, but it doesn't compare to the other holidays. Mother's Day is the biggest."
The greenhouse business does well at Warner's Florist Gifts and Greenhouses, Hollidaysburg, said manager Jeff Moist.
"Easter is not as big as it used to be as far as flowers from the home delivery perspective 20 years ago; it is a big plant holiday for churches for decorating," Moist said. "We serve a lot of churches. We are thought of as reliable and trustworthy. It is not a Valentine's Day or a Mother's Day, but we would rather have it than a normal week."
Easter remains significant to Creative Expressions Florist, Altoona, said owner Debbie Arnsparger.
"It is the start of the spring season. After Valentine's Day, it is a nice shot in the arm. I focus on special arrangements for Easter based on spring flowers like tulips, lillies and colored roses. They look like an Easter basket of flowers," Arnsparger said.