Sweet Jesus 

Easter arrives two weeks earlier this year than last (March 27 versus April 11)—and is, in fact, the earliest Easter since 1989, when the holiday fell on March 26. According to the National Retail Federation’s 2005 Easter Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, those lost weeks could account for a drop in Easter consumer spending from $10.5 billion to $9.6 billion this year.

In Missoula, though, a couple of local sweets stores sense nothing sour about this Easter. At the new Chocolat patisserie, which opened next to the Wilma Feb. 1, owners and chefs Jason and Ana Willenbrock say they can’t keep their truffles stocked, even at $2.75 a pop. Maybe it’s the unusual truffle flavors—mojito, wasabi, 10-year-old balsamic vinegar and strawberry—or the store’s niche as a high-end patisserie rather than a candy store, but Jason says there are often lines out the door, and so far “word of mouth pays the bills.” The first weekend they opened, he says, the store turned two months’ profit.

For Easter, Chocolat offers giant $25 handcrafted chocolate eggs filled with miniature milk, dark and white chocolate eggs; ribbon-tied bags of chocolate eggs; and rabbit- and egg-shaped cookies.

A block up the street, the Candy Bouquet on Front Street isn’t booming with custom Easter bouquet orders yet, but owner Elaine Nagle says that’s no reflection of this year’s earlier holiday. People tend to order at the last minute, she says—which, for Easter, means starting after Palm Sunday. On Valentine’s Day, she adds, the store filled 250 last-minute orders.

After three years of ownership, Nagle and her husband are selling the Candy Bouquet and retiring—but she says that also is no reflection of business. From their best-selling “popcorn bouquet” (about $39.99) to chocolate-covered sunflower seeds and gummy kabobs, they “don’t carry anything that you’re going to find in a box store,” she says, and have always had “awesome corporate accounts.”

Whether the Easter bunny brings you a smoked Spanish paprika chocolate from Chocolat, or a Candy-Bouquet chocolate lollipop, here’s some Easter food for thought:

According to the National Confectioners Association, 90 million chocolate Easter bunnies are manufactured each year, and 76 percent of people eat the ears first.

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