A real-live pig named Willie greets customers as they enter Saratoga Sweets in Halfmoon. But as our Beth Croughan found out, you'll see a more famous pig when you go inside the store.
HALFMOON, N.Y. -- It was more than 20 years ago when Mike Fitzgerald opened Saratoga Sweets. Then, his shop on Caroline Street sold a small number of handmade chocolates.
"I fancied myself becoming a choclatier," he said.
But these days, Fitzgerald goes by a different title. "I never thought I'd become the Pig Man. But I'm darn glad I am," he said.
"Pig Man" because his shop has become the place to purchase "Peppermint Pigs."
"The pig is passed around usually after Christmas dinner or a Christmas gathering. And everybody breaks the pig and has a piece of pig for good luck for the coming year," Fitzgerald explained.
They were a Saratoga tradition, started in the late 1800s, but died out about 50 years later. And Fitzgerald, at the request of the area-historical society, brought them back to life.
"That first Christmas we made about 60 pigs and now we're up to about 130,000," Fitzgerald said.
Staff make 1,000 pigs each day inside what's nicknamed the "Pig Pen." They're hard at work from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. "Orders fly just like the pigs do starting around September. But we're very, very busy right now," he said.
But being busy in a business that can bring a smile to millions Fitzgerald said is one of the best things there is. "Then next to Santa Claus, I'm the happiest guy at Christmas," said Fitzgerald.