A green rabbit and plush animals adorn the windows of Sweet Jane’s, peeking out from the corner of Queen and Morris Street. Inside, the smell of sugar wraps around shelves of chocolate, marshmallow Peeps, gourmet jelly beans and tea mugs.
The atmosphere is that of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, if it was run by an English lady: sophisticated but whimsical, as owner Janet Merrithew put it.
“I believe that we are the actors and our client is the audience,” Merrithew said. “We’re here to entertain.”
And Easter is their time to take the stage. Easter is the second biggest sales holiday for Sweet Jane’s, after Christmas. Valentine’s Day – the traditional chocolate holiday – comes in third.
This will be Emily Murphy’s third Easter working at the candy store.
“It’s very creative in here,” she said. “Everybody is making baskets or working on displays.”
This year, Merrithew is expecting bigger than normal holiday sales because of where Easter falls on the calendar.
“A lot of parents aren’t going to be flying their children home” from university, she said. “So you want to be able to make the students feel like there’s a part of home there with them.”
Baskets are the cornerstone of Janet’s business. At Easter, these baskets start off traditionally: a bunny in milk, white or dark chocolate, as well as Cadbury Mini Eggs in a colourful basket. But from there it’s up to the giver.
“I want parents to be able to phone up and say ‘You know what, my daughter really loves Campbell Soup. So I want to send a can of Campbell Soup in with that,’” Merrithew said.
In the past people have asked for movie tickets, Doritos and bottles of wine. One mother requested Black Fly coolers from an Ontario-based micro-distillery.
“I think it’s really important to put a part of that personal taste in it,” Merrithew said.
Merrithew anticipates being at the store “24-7” as the basket orders continue to come in.
“But it doesn’t last forever,” she said, “so you get through it.”