Local candy stores enjoying strong Easter holiday sales

DOWAGIAC — Spring has officially “hopped” in candy and chocolate stores around the country.

The onset of Easter brings with it one of the busiest times of the year for purveyors of tasty treats, with customers ordering their favorite chocolate bunnies and chocolate Easter eggs.

Julie Johnson, owner of Caruso’s Candy and Soda Shop, 130 S. Front St., Dowagiac, is reporting strong sales despite the ongoing pandemic.

“We’re probably as busy as any other Easter,” Johnson said. “We’re definitely busier than last Easter because nobody knew what was going to happen last year.”

According to Johnson, the shop has seen an uptick in over-the-phone orders this year.

“It’s been roughly a 50-50 split between in-person and phone orders,” she said. “There has been an increase of people ordering over the phone and following our Facebook page for specials.”

In addition to its wide selection of chocolate bunnies, crosses and eggs, Caruso’s “breakable eggs” have been a hit among customers this year. The item consists of a large, solid chocolate shell with an assortment of candies inside, and comes with a small wooden mallet customers can use to break open the egg for an interactive experience. Caruso’s also offers a breakable egg with an assortment of homemade chocolates inside.

“This is similar to the breakable hearts we did on Valentine’s Day,” Johnson said. “We’ve seen a lot of people purchase these for their centerpieces on their tables.”

Like Caruso’s, Veni’s Sweet Shop, 228 Main St., Niles, has been doing good business during Easter
season.

“We’ve been busy,” said general manager Linda Skwarcan. “We feel very lucky that our traffic has improved so much compared to last year. We got through Valentine’s Day, which was a very good one for us, and we immediately started making all sorts of bunnies, eggs, chocolate baskets and all of the seasonal things that we do.”

Skwarcan said the shop’s chocolate bunnies and eggs are traditionally her best sellers.

“Our Easter items are pretty stable from year to year,” she said. “We have a bunny Peep dipped in chocolate that is cute, but there isn’t a new product that has taken everything by storm.”

While the pandemic has done a number on both businesses, the easing of restrictions has started a slow return to a state of normalcy.

“We found last Easter very challenging with the amount of curbside orders we had because we’re not set up properly for curbside before COVID hit,” Skwarcan said. “It was very challenging to have some customers in the store picking items and people on the phone placing orders while you’re also trying to ship things and have people run things outside to cars. We’re looking forward to this year. We are happy to offer curbside and we still do it regularly but since we’ve been doing it for a year now, we’re pretty well adjusted.”

When asked what their favorite Easter candy was, Johnson and Skwarcan were quick to reply.

“I like cooking caramel,” Skwarcan said. “So for Easter we make caramel eggs and salted caramel eggs. The part of production I enjoy most is cooking the centers. Making the peanut butter melt away for the peanut butter eggs, the marshmallows for the marshmallow eggs, that’s what I enjoy the most.”

“It would probably be our cream eggs,” Johnson said. “They’re our individual creams, but we make them in egg shapes and put pretty flowers on them. They come in a variety of different flavors, and it’s something we don’t normally have in the store.”

Veni’s hours are from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, with masks required for entry. Orders can also be placed over the phone or online at venissweetshop.com. A list of Easter items can be found on the store’s Facebook page.

“One item we do not have yet is bunny caramel apples,” Skwarcan said. “They’re caramel apples with little faces, bunny ears and little marshmallow tushes. It’s an item we don’t want to make too early, since it’s an apple. Those will be available next week.

Caruso’s is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Saturday,  9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and is closed Sunday. Orders can be made in person or over the phone at (269) 782-6001, with updates regarding store items and specials regularly posted on the store’s Facebook page.

“Our items are great to put in Easter baskets,” Johnson said. “These are things you can’t find in your local drug store or grocery store. Even with our nostalgic candy stuff, you’ll find things that you can’t find anywhere else to make your Easter basket special.”

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