OLD LYME — “It’s a way for them to connect and say hello and happy Easter and still feel like the holiday is still coming,” said Barbara Crowley, owner of the Chocolate Shell, who is providing a customized, shippable “Easter basket in a box” as well as regular Easter baskets this coming week.
“I fill the boxes as if it were an Easter basket. I put the grass in there and everything. I try to give the person what they’re asking for and they give me a price range to work within and I fill it depending on roughly the age we’re doing it for,” she said.
Easter is a time of celebration and togetherness. Children eagerly await their Easter baskets and look forward to egg hunts. Even though this year is completely different, customers still want to acknowledge their families near and far, she said.
“I’ve been shipping quite a few orders out of state, some to Texas and Virginia,” she said. “People think it’s a great idea. Customers of mine who are local love the idea because they can still get what they need and have it there for the day they want it. And the ones that are calling from a distance
Today the phones are ringing off the hook.
Customers can pick items, like a stuffed bunny toy, from the website. Boxes ship for $15 with two-day shipping. The deadline for ordering a box is Wednesday.
“For locals, we will take orders for curbside or delivery, whichever suits their needs,” she said. “We’re also doing Easter baskets in a box for people who would like them shipped to them.”
For now, only one customer at a time is allowed in the store, she said.
Crowley said she purchased the Chocolate Shell in 2011 but the business was started in 1980.
“This is the second biggest holiday. Christmas is the first, Easter is the second and Valentine’s Day is the third,” she said. “This makes me feel [my customers] are still out there and I’m very much wanted and appreciated. It’s such a good feeling.”
Each family has its own traditional Easter meal, often featuring ham, lamb or roast beef.
Firefly Farms in North Stonington offers cuts of certified humane Randall beef and rose veal, Mulefoot pork and chicken.
The farm store is open Tuesday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., said Beth Tillman, manager and co-owner of the farm. Firefly Farms also sells at the Stonington Farmers Market at the Velvet Mill on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“It’s best to order in advance by text, email or on a form on the website,” said Tillman.
Four Mile River Farm in Old Lyme is offering brisket and other cuts for Easter. The farm raises grass-fed Angus and Hereford beef and offers pork and eggs.
Chris Bourne, who operates the farm with owners Nunz and Irene Corsino, said the customer demand for meat has risen since the shelter-in-place order began.
“We’ve been on kind of a rush because we were the only ones who had product and people don’t want to go to the grocery store,” he said. “We could get creative and come up with something. We’re always happy to work with people.”
He said the farm stand has been set up to accomodate social distancing.
“We have a system now where people can prepay and then just come and pick up a bag with their name on it,” he said.
Bourne said he needs any orders for Easter to be in by late Sunday.
At Beaver Brook Farm in Lyme, Suzanne Sankow said the farm has a range of options available for Easter.
“We have leg of lamb bone-in and leg of lamb butterflied. We have sheep cheese and cow cheese and we have eggs,” she said.
Customers can call or email Sankow for prices and deadlines for Easter.
White Gate Farm in East Lyme is offering a range of farm-grown and prepared foods.
“We are offering our very own lamb on the website and we have our own chickens and eggs as well,” said Pauline Lord, owner. “We have savory options. There’s always a soup or a stew, today we have spanakopita and a wonderful Greek lemon soup. We have a huge array of tarts and torts, pies, cookies, muffins and cupcakes of every stripe.”
Customers can order on the site from Mondays at 12:01 a.m. to Wednesday at 11:59 p.m., but it’s best to order early because items sell out, Lord said.
“But the earlier the more options they’ll have,” including Easter flowers, Lord said.
She said her regular customers have continued to order and shop each week but, like Four Mile River Farm, the number of new customers has increased since the state order to shelter in place.
“I think it’s attracted a whole bunch of new people as well because they’re just finding us,” she said. “And it’s fun because you don’t have to get out of your car, you don’t have to wait in line, you can order within this block of time.”
Lord said visitors were welcome to explore the farm while observing the current rules for social distancing.
“People don’t want to be with crowds at Stop and Shop. I will add that it’s a wonderful thing to come and walk around the farm, which people are welcome to do and we have wonderful trails in the woods. They can have a picnic here, the daffodils are at their peak beauty,” she said.
Carla Steele, owner of Elements Flowers in the Big Y shopping plaza in Old Lyme, said that this year buying flowers will be very different because of state-mandated restrictions.
“People cannot browse or enter the flower shop, that is illegal,” she wrote in an email.
Customers can call, text or email or create an order online and they will receive a confirmation call or email to arrange pickup and payment, said Steele.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the supply chain for florists and several of her vendors are temporarily unavailable, she said.
“There is very limited availability due to global logistical and regulatory issues. If folks want something specific, certain colors, certain flowers, I need to know by this Tuesday at 7 p.m. Thereafter they can still pre-order but it will be more difficult to guarantee anything specific,” she wrote.
Selections will include fresh cut flowers and potted plants.
Steele will be open Thursday through Sunday to fill orders and provide delivery and curbside pick-up at pre-arranged times. Deliveries are available all week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and limited to 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Sunday.
“The orders are just coming in now, they started Friday and Saturday,” said Dagmar Ratensperger, owner of Dagmar’s Desserts in Old Saybrook.
The key lime pie is the most popular request so far.
“It will be mainly things like strawberry tortes, maybe some raspberry, maybe some flourless chocolate cakes — they are always popping for Easter,” she said. “Carrot cake is also very popular.”
Tuesday is the deadline for Easter orders. All items will be delivered curbside, which she said, is posing a new challenge.
“Right now we are only two people and it’s only curbside. There’s a learning curve because we still have a lot of customers showing up at the door,” she said. “We are just baking to order right now so people need to give us a little bit of advance notice. We can do anything, just give us some time.”
The bakery will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., with extended hours the day before Easter.
At Hen and Heifer in Guilford, owner Whang Suh said all Easter orders are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis and the quantities will be limited “because of untimely external influences.”
The Easter menu, which is posted on Facebook and Instagram, includes a salted caramel toffee “Easter egg” cookie that serves eight to 10 people and a range of cakes including chocolate merveilleux, pistachio délice and a lemon olive oil cake, among others.
“In addition to the menu items, we will be offering chocolate hens, also in limited quantities, available to order by telephone or online. They are crafted by us using vintage french molds, and made entirely of Valrhona chocolates… dark, milk, white, strawberry, and gianduja,” he wrote in an email.
Suh said this year’s holiday is different from previous years but he still wants to provide foods for celebration and enjoyment.
“It simply doesn’t feel like Easter or spring as any of us have known it in the past, yet we’re motivated to push onward with the support of our customers who depend on us for normalcy and a bit of escapism,” he said.