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Specialty food markets swamped as shoppers stock up for holiday.

Byline: Linda Bock

The shopping malls are not the only crazy-busy places for holiday shoppers. Small-business owners are also gearing up for the last-minute mad dash.

"Today is total craziness," said John Wyka, owner of West Boylston Seafood, 321 West Boylston St., West Boylston, yesterday. He added that Christmas Eve day is the seafood market's busiest day of the year by far. "We'll do a week's worth of business the 24th."

People will be picking up orders at the West Boylston market they placed weeks ago, or in some cases, days ago. Mr. Wyka said the No. 1 seller on Christmas Eve is shrimp cocktail, followed by haddock and lobsters, then scallops, calamari and smelts.

"We cook all the shrimp ourselves, or people can buy raw shrimp to cook," Mr. Wyka said.

Mr. Wyka scheduled 17 employees to wait on the line of customers that sometimes snakes around the attached restaurant by the lobster tank and then the long counter. Two additional employees will spend their day today in the large walk-in refrigerators just to find customer's seafood orders.

"Actually it's a lot of fun," Mr. Wyka said.

Mike O'Driscoll of O'Driscoll's Fresh Butchery, 299 West Main St., Northboro, has also been charged up this week preparing orders.

"We're so busy pumping out orders," Mr. O'Driscoll said. "We're crazy already, and Friday we'll be really crazy."

Mr. O'Driscoll took more than 600 special orders, primarily beef, for Christmas dinners. Boneless rib roasts were the most popular selection for holiday dinners this weekend for many, followed by beef tenderloins.

In addition to people picking up special orders yesterday and today, part of the last-minute crunch occurs because many businesses close early today.

"It compacts us all," said Ed Hyder of Ed Hyder's Mediterranean Market, 408 Pleasant St., Worcester. He said his market will be packed all day as people pick up special orders, wine and gifts.

"People will be picking up their platters and lamb roasts, and other special orders," Mr. Hyder said. "But we will have plenty of last-minute grab-and-go's. People who didn't plan an appetizer, or just need to pick up something fast."

His son, Gregory Hyder, will make at least 150 pounds of fresh hummus over yesterday and today, and work to keep up with the demand for European cheeses and tabbouleh.

"We put everybody to work," Mr. Hyder said. His daughter, Alexis Hyder, just returned from college, and she was already behind the counter yesterday. His other daughter, Miriam Hyder, who has another job, will be asked if she can spare some time today helping out.

"We have eight employees and everybody is working," Mr. Hyder said. "Offshore leave is canceled on holiday week."

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Paul "Tatanka" McKeon, ready for the season in Rudolph antlers at Fairway Beef, is unfazed by the steady long lines of customers going to the back of the store and around the corner yesterday.

PHOTOG: T&G Staff/JIM COLLINS
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Dec 24, 2010
Words:490
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