(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — On Easter morning, children in households throughout Erie will scour their homes in search of a basket full of treats. What’s consumed in hours oftentimes has been painstakingly handcrafted. At Romolo Chocolates in Erie, Easter marks the end of a big season.
“It’s the end of our season for candymakers – really our biggest season – and this is sort of a chance for us to show everything we’re capable of,” said Romolo Chocolates owner Anthony E. Stefanelli.
At Romolo Chocolates, they’ve been dishing out Easter favorites since 1994, and prior to opening the store, Stefanelli worked for other confectionary businesses in Erie.
“My company is 28 years old. I worked at another company in Erie, and those people have followed me to Romolo. I have been serving the same families for three or four generations,” Stefanelli said. “They’re coming back because the product is always the same. One of the things we pride ourselves in is having wonderful chocolate with no aftertaste that’s pleasing to people.”
During the Easter season, unsurprisingly, chocolate bunnies are their best-selling item. Sponge candy and meltaways do well year-round, Stefanelli added.
“Other items we do that people like are chocolate in the form of Easter suckers, bunnies and chicks.” Romolo paused before adding, “All of this stuff, when I talk about it, it sounds comical if you’re not seeing it.”
Romolo Chocolates offers several different types of chocolate bunnies, but the standout is a 13-pound bunny with a price tag of about $200. It stands at over two feet high, and it is nearly solid chocolate (“We hollow out about a pound, sometimes 2 pounds, from the bottom to keep the cost down,” Stefanelli said).
Stefanelli said they sell the 13-pound bunnies, but they also give one away during their “foiled egg contest.” In the contest, people guess the number of foiled chocolate eggs in a jar (sometimes, Romolo Chocolates uses jelly beans instead of foiled eggs), and whoever guesses closest wins the giant bunny.
“It’s an opportunity for us to give them one of the largest rabbits they’ll ever see in their house, as far as chocolate goes,” Stefanelli said. “The runner-up always gets the foiled eggs.”
When the families come in to get their chocolate bunnies, other chocolates and candies for Easter baskets, they’re greeted by members of the Romolo staff who package chocolates from the display case or run the cash registers.
“A lot of people don’t realize the amount of work it is. We really have a wonderful culture here at Romolo. We try to make it as fun as possible, but it is work,” Stefanelli said. “The luxury we have is we sell something that people have at least continually expressed joy and love for. For all the work you do, you get a lot back in the sense of people loving our products and being happy.”
Stefanelli said Romolo Chocolates has become a part of some families’ traditions.
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“My people love it. When I go out there, the girls that are working the counter and working the cash registers are all enjoying the responses,” he said. “Some people buy the bunnies here every year, and they have a tradition of getting a certain rabbit. And we get to be a part of that.”