MERIDEN — Local markets have traditional kielbasa available for Easter orders, but are anticipating lower than usual sales.
“I'm hoping it picks up because this is our time of year,” said Walter Paluszewski, co-owner of V. Czapiga & Son . “We could collapse if we don't get our business back.”
Easter is the busiest and most important time of the year for the century-old establishment at 11 Cooper St. So far, orders are down about 50 percent.
“This carries us all year,” Paluszewski said. The business needs at least 80 or 90 percent of their usual Easter volume to be able to pay its taxes, insurance, mortgage and other bills.
V. Czapiga & Sons started taking orders for the holiday right after St. Patrick’s Day. Pickup, including curbside, is available, as is delivery to local towns. Paluszewski said they still plan to take the week after Easter off as usual.
Varieties of babka, horseradish and pierogies are available for the holiday as well. If the store has more than five people inside — including employees — staff will take orders from customers as they wait in their cars.
Meriden resident Gina Quinn stayed in her car while picking up kielbasa for Easter on Friday. An employee took her order outside and then returned wearing gloves to exchange payment for the filled bag.
“They were great with just bringing it out to me,” she said.
Quinn has been getting kielbasa from Czapgia & Sons for about 40 years, since she was very little. So even with the pandemic, passing up on it wasn’t an option. Instead of ordering for the usual large holiday gathering, she picked up enough for her immediate family.
“My kielbasa order is usually much bigger, now I got a little tiny one for us,” she said.
Joe Kaminski was also picking up kielbasa and babka for Easter on Friday. The now-Massachusetts resident came down to Connecticut just for Czapiga & Sons.
“I’ve tried like three different places (in Massachusetts) and none of them are the same, they’re not good enough,” he said.
David Martorelli, co-owner of Filipek Bros, at 262 Elm St., said he’s taking orders for the holiday too, but plans to close right after.
“It’s scary,” he said. “I can’t wait for Easter to be over, so I can just close the doors.”
The market is open to one customer at a time. People can pre-order and pre-pay over the phone for takeout and curbside pickup. Inside, a clear tarp-like structure separates the customers from the staff at the counter.
Martorelli said delivery could potentially be arranged for senior citizens.
He said kielbasa, sausage, homemade horseradish and pierogi are usually best-sellers.
Martorelli plans to close the store the Saturday before Easter for about three weeks, or at least until the peak of coronavirus has passed. He doesn’t want to disappoint customers by closing before the holiday
Around this time last year, Martorelli said the business had sold about 4,000 pounds of kielbasa. This year they’re up to about 1,000.
“This year I don’t know what to do, I’m totally lost,” he said.
He estimates sales for the holiday will be down around 60 percent because families will not be holding large get-togethers. He plans to donate any leftover kielbasa to local hospital nurses.
Noack’s Meat Products, 1112 E. Main St., is still open and taking orders as well.
“We’ll still have our regular Easter kielbasa and hams; trying to keep it as normal as possible for everyone,” owner Evangelina Michalowski said. “Easter just won’t be the same.”
The store started limiting in-store customers to three at a time this week.
The staff can’t deliver, but encourage customers to call ahead to place orders for takeout or curbside delivery. Michalowski said staff wear masks and gloves and sanitize the business often.
“We’re just taking all the precautions we can to keep everyone safe,” she said.