Phil Mayeski is the Easter Bunny's helper and yesterday he was a very busy man.
"It's bigger than Christmas," said Mr. Mayeski. "Busier than Halloween."
He's talking about candy, shelves and shelves of it that dwarf him in his job filling orders and stocking inventory at the A&A Candy & Tobacco Co. on South Broadway.
At Christmas, people buy gifts and make their own cookies. When the Halloween spooks creep out of the night, neighbors give away handfuls of cheap treats to keep them at bay.
But Easter is a time for a better class of sweets -- chocolate eggs filled with peanut butter, caramel or butter cream; bunnies made of chocolate dark and white; and rainbows of jelly beans sprinkled in baskets sodded with plastic grass.
All of which were doing well at A&A yesterday, as requests for holiday staples sent Mr. Mayeski scurrying up and down ladders, into the basement and in and out of endless back rooms of the century-old candy company just south of Pratt Street.
Just before noon he was letting a man walk away with a box of 24 coconut-filled chocolate eggs for the last-minute price of $6.99, down from the regular $8.10.
"Easter has always been steady. We've been packed," said Mr. Mayeski, who started working at A&A as a 14-year-old stock boy almost 20 years ago and in that time came to be known to customers as "Moon."
And with all due respect to marshmallow chicks and chocolate rabbits, the current phenomenon among connoisseurs of confections, namely ornery little kids, is for candy and gum so horribly sour that it comes with warning labels.
It's the latest craze in the market for penny candy, individual drops of hardened or chewy goop that now
sell for a nickel or dime each. The fad has been sweeping the corner stores for about six months with products named Eye Poppers, Cry Babies, Warheads, Tear Jerkers and Lock Jaws.
"We even had a jar of them in here with the warning in sign language," said Mr. Mayeski.
So popular are these candies -- made with stuff like citric acid, turmeric and sodium citrate -- that the Easter Bunny himself had trouble finding some for this morning's distribution.
"We don't have a single box. We're going through 100 cases a week," said Mr. Mayeski. "You know, I should have invented a super-super sour jelly bean this year. I would have made a million bucks!"