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Late holiday offers a boost

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec Jerry Moore, owner of Dutch Hill Chocolates, makes candy for Easter on Thursday. Moore said the holiday makes up about one-fifth or one-sixth of Dutch Hill Chocolates’ annual business.

Americans will spend more than ever as they celebrate Easter nearly three weeks later this year than last, according to the National Retail Federation.

According to NRF’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, spending for Easter is expected to reach $18.4 billion, up 6 percent over last year’s record $17.3 billion and an all-time high in the survey’s 14-year history.

Consumers are expected to spend $5.8 billion on food.

People in the Altoona area enjoy holiday buffets, said Rachel Lenhart, general manager of the Altoona Grand Hotel.

“We have found that people in this area enjoy coming out on Easter to spend time with their family without cooking and cleaning up; it is very convenient,” Lenhart said. “We are changing things up a little bit this year; it is more like a brunch. We will have a create your own omelet station and will also feature carved prime rib.”

The buffet will be open from 10:30 a.m.to 2:30 p.m., and reservations are suggested, Lenhart said.

“Easter is a huge family celebration day compared to Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. It is a family celebration. People don’t want to stay at home and cook and entertain. That is the way society is going,” said Victoria Mirenda, general manager of The Casino at Lakemont Park and Snappy Chef.

The Casino expects a crowd of about 325 for their buffet which will be served form 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Reservations are strongly suggested, she said.

Some of the featured items include prime rib, salmon and crispy leek encrusted chicken with a maple cider vinegar sauce.

“We will have dishes you don’t normally see. They are specialty items with specialty sauces. Our desserts are worth the trip. They are all homemade by our pastry chef from scratch,” Mirenda said.

Prime Sirloin Restaurant at the Meadows Intersection and U.S. Hotel Tavern in Hollidaysburg will be offering traditional Easter buffets, said Don Delozier, who owns both businesses.

Prime Sirloin’s buffet will be available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will feature items such as ham, turkey and chicken with a wide variety of side dishes.

Last year, Prime Sirloin served about 1,500 people, Delozier said.U.S. Hotel Tavern’s buffet will feature stuffed chicken breast and honey glazed ham and will serve from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations are encouraged, Delozier said.

The holiday also provides a bump in sales for area grocery stores.

“As we approach the Easter holiday, we note a significant increase in customer interest surrounding traditional seasonal favorites. At Giant Eagle, the most notable impact on our business is the elevated demand for both lamb and ham offerings. Easter is the most popular time of year for our customers to purchase lamb, and one of the holidays when ham is most relevant,” said spokesman Dick Roberts.

“Easter is one of the bigger sales weeks of the year. We sell a lot of hams and turkeys. We also see increased demand for lamb. In fact, it’s one of our best weeks of the year for selling lamb. In produce, the big sellers are asparagus, broccoli crowns, green beans and potatoes,” said Weis Markets spokesman Dennis Curtin.

Another $2.6 billion is expected to be spent on Easter candy.

Easter is the No. 1 holiday for Gardners Candies, Tyrone.

“Easter is our No. 1 holiday. Christmas is a close second. Christmas and Easter together make up about 75 percent of our business for the year,” President Sam Phillips said.

A late Easter is good for his business, Phillips said.

“There is more time for selling, the weather is better, spring is in the air. Even groups doing fundraisers have more time to sell. When Easter falls late, some people come back a second time. We are already seeing an increase in sales over last year,” Phillips said.

Easter is also important to Bedford Candies and Dutch Hill Chocolates.

“It is our second biggest holiday as opposed to Christmas. The candy season for us is from Christmas to Easter and into Mother’s Day. We need the Easter business to carry us through the summer,” said Tammy Wiley, Bedford Candies owner. “Being late has increased our holiday sales.”

“Easter is very important to us. Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter are the three major holidays and where a lot of my income comes from. Easter makes up about one-fifth or one-sixth of our annual business,” said Dutch Hill Chocolates owner Jerry Moore.

Easter is the top holiday season for candy sales at Blair Candy Co., said Mike Dandrea, director of sales.

One of Blair Candy’s biggest sellers is Zitner’s Butter Krak Eggs.

“They were featured on a show on the Travel Channel, and the next morning we had 200 orders for them on our website. We are one of the main distributors of the Butter Krak Eggs. We have already gone through a couple of thousand boxes of them. We sell out each year. We sold out of them around April 1,” Dandrea said.

Consumers are expected to spend $1.2 billion on Easter flowers.

Easter is not as big of a flower holiday as it was 10 to 15 years ago, said Andrea Hammel, owner of Peterman’s Flower Shop.

“As far as potted plants, there is so much competition. Things like centerpieces and whimsical spring arrangements sell pretty good for the holiday. People like very colorful, bright flowers like tulips and daffodils, anything that will scream spring,” Hammel said.

Easter is important to Sunrise Floral and Gifts, owner Dawn Amrhein said.

“We have hyacinths, tulips and Easter lilies. We also do centerpieces for Easter tables. It is not one of our bigger holidays, but we want people to make it big. We want people to buy flowers for Easter,” Amrhein said.

While Easter is also not one of the biggest holidays for Warner’s Florists Gifts Greenhouses, Hollidays­burg, the store is still busy.

“A lot of our Easter business is plants for churches; that is a focus of ours. The churches want reliability and quality. We try to be super reliable and have real nice things for them,” manager Jeff Moist said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.

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