ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio — Riesbeck's Markets, cited often for its huge sales of paczki prior to Lent, started early this year with stacks of the Polish pastries iced in black and gold — the team colors of this year's Super Bowl champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It was a good idea, officials said, because sales of the rich, filled pastries soared during Super Bowl weekend.
“We had planned to start offering paczki Monday morning [Feb. 2], but with Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl, we decided to ice some in black and gold and get them out on Friday, and certainly have them for Super Saturday,” said John Chickery, Riesbeck's bakery director.
“For years, we've had a one-day Super Saturday sale, the day before Super Bowl, and it has worked extremely well for the company.”
On that day, the company features party-type foods, with an emphasis on snacks, deli platters and store-made bakery items, such as pepperoni rolls.
This year, Riesbeck's had in-store signs up two weeks ahead of time, telling customers they could buy black-and-gold paczki to honor the regional favorites on Super Bowl weekend.
Offering the from-scratch treats at 10 stores, Riesbeck's sold 2,250 six-count boxes of the black-and-gold paczki and 3,700 boxes of other paczki in a variety of flavors from Friday to Sunday afternoon. The boxed paczki retail for $4.99; individual paczki are 90 cents.
“We ran out of the black-and-gold each of the three days,” Chickery said, noting that two of Riesbeck's stores are no more than an hour away from Pittsburgh.
Also, in an effort to generate publicity during the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Riesbeck's had boxes of the black-and-gold paczki delivered to every radio station in its market area.
“We also had two television stations in our stores: an NBC affiliate from Steubenville, Ohio, and a CBS affiliate from Wheeling, W.Va. We got tremendous coverage,” Chickery said.
“People loved the black-and-gold,” Chickery said. “The black was dark chocolate icing with black coloring added, and then vanilla icing with yellow. It was the first time we've iced paczki. They're usually glazed or just plain or sugared.”
Riesbeck's, one of the first retailers to promote its store-made paczki as a pre-Lenten treat, will offer at least eight flavors daily through Fat Tuesday, Feb. 24, and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Lent on April 11. During the month of February, Riesbeck's will promote the pastries with live performances by an accordionist.