Easter business isn’t hopping for NJ candy shops, garden centers
Easter is the biggest holiday of the year for Meyer's House of Sweets.
But that likely won't be the case in 2020, as social-distancing efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 keep New Jerseyans from celebrating the springtime holiday as they typically would.
"I usually do a lot of trays for when people go to parties, or they'll give a tray to their pastor or priest, and I don't have any orders for that," said co-owner Cris Meyer, whose shop is located in Bergen County, the New Jersey county with the most confirmed positive cases of the novel coronavirus, and related deaths.
Meyer said the Sweets website is seeing more orders, but residents in general are "toning it down" when making Easter purchases. Inside the shop, capacity is limited to two customers at a time.
David Bradley Chocolatier, in Robbinsville, is still delivering goodies to residents and stores, either through their typical shipping method, or by walking outside to customers who arrive at the main facility for pickup.
"We're only going to do a little percentage of what we normally do, but when you look at the whole grand scheme of things, us having a lot of Easter bunnies left over — really not that big of a deal," said co-owner Christine O'Brian.
Candy/chocolate shops are allowed to remain open as an essential business, as are New Jersey's garden centers, which also count on Easter — Apr. 12 this year — for a nice boost in sales, and see it as a kickoff to spring in the Garden State.
"The flowers are already here growing ... Now we're just hoping, keeping our fingers crossed that we'll be able to sell them," said Christopher DiGregorio, an owner at Twin Pond Farm in Howell.
The virus threat has been "challenging" for the family-run garden center and country market, DiGregorio said. Twin Pond has been diversifying its operations — offering curbside pickup, for example — to attract more customers.
The doors are still open at Maple Leaf Farms in Manalapan, but any Easter-related events are obviously cancelled. According to manager Carmine Poliseno, customer demand is "definitely off."
"I think they're scared to come out and I think they don't know we're open," Poliseno said.
Social distancing is "marked out" in the country store, and hours have been adjusted slightly as a result of the pandemic, Poliseno said. The garden center, meanwhile, is one of the largest in the country — good news for folks who want to keep their distance from others.
"Our greenhouse is over an acre and a half," he said. "To be on top of somebody, I'd probably have to have 2 to 3,000 people just in the greenhouse alone."
Customers have another 30 acres outside where they can choose plants for Easter and spring, he said.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.