By WARREN DILLAWAY - email@example.com
— Things got hectic Monday as shoppers got ready for Christmas Eve and even more importantly, Christmas.
Tara Drum of Ashtabula was one of dozens of people looking for that special fish touch for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day feasts.
“It’s pretty busy. They are crazy,” said Drum of the crowd invading Hil-Mak Sea Food in Ashtabula Harbor.
“Christmas Eve is our busiest day of the year here; bar none. We prepare the whole week for one day,” said owner Lauri Maki.
Italian Christmas Eve culinary traditions help make the day a busy one for the Hil-Mak crew. Maki said fresh lobster, salted cod (baccala), calimari (squid) and Nantucket Bay scallops are favorites.
“The majority of the people who are coming (to shop at the store Monday), come once a year,” Maki said as 350 people waited their turn. He said many of the people coming once a year will spend $150.
“They know exactly what they want,” Maki said. He said the staff takes orders prior to Christmas Eve so they can be cut and packaged for specific arrival times.
Patsy Sharpe, manager of the store, said she has been putting together Christmas Eve orders for 35 years. “It’s a blast. It’s a lot of fun,” she said.
Area stores reported brisk business Monday and for the entire weekend.
“It’s been pretty hectic. I had to open early because people were knocking on the window (to get in),” said Nick Dalrymple, owner of Marianne’s Candy on Bridge Street in Ashtabula.
He said customers were looking for sorted boxes of chocolate for gifts and “get togethers”.
Linda Defina, owner of Defina’s in the Harbor, reported good traffic as well. “Today’s been really good. The last few days have been good,” she said.
“We’ve been selling a lot of jewelry and children’s books. We are running out of things; which is good,” DeFina said.
Late Monday morning traffic was backed up 15 to 20 cars deep in the turn lane leading to Ashtabula Towne Square. Shoppers at the Super Kmart and stores on the inside of the mall were steady, with people looking for that special gift or just picking up some groceries.
“I’m a last minute Christmas shopper (every year),” said Shon Lucas of Erie while carrying a large bag of presents.