QUILLIN'S LEPRECHAUN OFFERS POT OF POTATO SALAD, COOKIES

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Quillin's here set its resident leprechaun, Quinn, to work whipping up a new product for this St. Patrick's Day: a leprechaun potato salad featuring miniature potatoes.Leprechaun-shaped cookies also were featured for the first time this year, in the retailer's in-store bakeries.Nancy Rand, deli supervisor for the retailer's nine units, said the new products have been added to "create

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Quillin's here set its resident leprechaun, Quinn, to work whipping up a new product for this St. Patrick's Day: a leprechaun potato salad featuring miniature potatoes.

Leprechaun-shaped cookies also were featured for the first time this year, in the retailer's in-store bakeries.

Nancy Rand, deli supervisor for the retailer's nine units, said the new products have been added to "create more excitement and additional sales for the holiday."

Quinn and his wife, Molly, are promotional characters who often appear at Quillin's stores in person around this time of year, officials said. But their pictures and names are used throughout the year in connection with special products.

Quinn's leprechaun potato salad got a successful tryout in one store last month, and then was rolled out to all stores March 1.

In an interview prior to the holiday, Rand told SN the potato salad features "little potatoes, no bigger around than a quarter." The full-grown potatoes are harvested in the Andes mountains, she said. Quillin's sources them frozen and parbaked.

The retailer began using the potatoes for items on its catering menu during the Christmas holidays. "People loved them. That's why we decided to make a special potato salad with them," Rand said.

The salad is made in small batches at each store. The leprechaun's recipe uses the whole potatoes, a secret-recipe bacon dressing, pieces of crispy bacon and fresh chopped green onions. The introductory retail is $1.99 a pound.

Rand said the product will be kept on after St. Patrick's Day. Then, the retail will be raised to $2.99 a pound.

The specialty potato salad is being displayed near the "O' Strombolis," another seasonal product at Quillin's. Rand said that instead of the usual Italian meats and cheeses used in a Stromboli, the O'Stromboli features shaved, whole muscle corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and a special sauce.

"It's like a Reuben sandwich wrapped in pizza dough," Rand explained. The O'Strombolis retail for $2.99 a pound.

On St. Patrick's Day and the week prior to it, Quillin's also offered a corned beef and cabbage dinner at a special price of $2.99. The dinner includes a green dinner roll.

"We do that every year and it's very popular. Our main store ordered 18 cases of corned beef this year. That means they expected to go through 300 pounds at that one store [during the week prior to St. Patrick's Day]," Rand said.

Quillin's bakeries, meanwhile, started displaying their new leprechaun cookies March 1, along with iced, shamrock-shaped cookies, which are made in the company's central bakery.

"It's good to begin the cookie displays early because its sends a subliminal message to customers that St. Patrick's Day is coming up," Rand said.

She explained that it's even more important to signal the advent of St. Patrick's Day early than it is the other holidays, because people might not think of it beforehand. By contrast, everybody knows when Christmas and the Fourth of July are, she said.

"We'll begin offering the more perishable items, like decorated cakes and green bread, the weekend before St. Patrick's Day," Rand said

The new leprechaun cookies, sourced from outside, are like "big, old-fashioned sugar cookies, decorated with green, crystal sugar," Rand noted.

"They're perfect little treats for school," she said. The retail: 25 cents each or $2.99 a dozen.

A little more than 3 inches high, each cookie is shaped like a leprechaun with a three-dimensional derby hat, bow tie and buckled shoes.

Both the bakery and the deli always ring up substantial sales for St. Patrick's Day, Rand said.

"People know that if they want something for that holiday, Quillin's is the place to get it," she added.

Indeed, five billboards in La Crosse will tout Quillin's signature Blarney bars throughout March. The Blarney bars are two-layer brownies with a caramel filling, a caramel and pecan icing and a drizzle of chocolate on their tops.