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Area retailers feel the love as romance offers one-day surge

  • Heart shaped boxes of chocolates line the counter at Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium in Northampton on February 12, 2013, in preparation of Valentine's Day.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Heart shaped boxes of chocolates line the counter at Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium in Northampton on February 12, 2013, in preparation of Valentine's Day.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Colleen Wickland of Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium in Northampton wraps chocolates in Valentine's day wrapping paper on Tuesday, February 12, 2013.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Colleen Wickland of Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium in Northampton wraps chocolates in Valentine's day wrapping paper on Tuesday, February 12, 2013.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • A customer chooses chocolates to put in a box at Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium in Northampton on Tuesday, February 12, 2013. The store is particularly before Valentine's Day.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    A customer chooses chocolates to put in a box at Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium in Northampton on Tuesday, February 12, 2013. The store is particularly before Valentine's Day.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Trina Parsons of Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium in Northampton, left, hands Nancy Maree of Longmeadow her purchase on Tuesday, February 12, 2013.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Trina Parsons of Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium in Northampton, left, hands Nancy Maree of Longmeadow her purchase on Tuesday, February 12, 2013.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Colleen Wickland of Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium in Northampton restocks chocolates on Tuesday, February 12, 2013. The store has been particularly busy in anticipation of Valentine's Day.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Colleen Wickland of Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium in Northampton restocks chocolates on Tuesday, February 12, 2013. The store has been particularly busy in anticipation of Valentine's Day.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Frank Boyden, owner of Knowles Flower Shop in Amherst, moves a Valentines Day gift before delivery Tuesday.JERREY ROBERTS

    Frank Boyden, owner of Knowles Flower Shop in Amherst, moves a Valentines Day gift before delivery Tuesday.JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Frank Boyden, owner of Knowles Flower Shop in Amherst, makes an arrangement Tuesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Frank Boyden, owner of Knowles Flower Shop in Amherst, makes an arrangement Tuesday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Frank Boyden, owner of Knowles Flower Shop in Amherst, makes an arrangement Tuesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Frank Boyden, owner of Knowles Flower Shop in Amherst, makes an arrangement Tuesday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Frank Boyden, owner of Knowles Flower Shop in Amherst, makes an arrangement Tuesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Frank Boyden, owner of Knowles Flower Shop in Amherst, makes an arrangement Tuesday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Heart shaped boxes of chocolates line the counter at Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium in Northampton on February 12, 2013, in preparation of Valentine's Day.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Colleen Wickland of Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium in Northampton wraps chocolates in Valentine's day wrapping paper on Tuesday, February 12, 2013.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • A customer chooses chocolates to put in a box at Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium in Northampton on Tuesday, February 12, 2013. The store is particularly before Valentine's Day.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Trina Parsons of Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium in Northampton, left, hands Nancy Maree of Longmeadow her purchase on Tuesday, February 12, 2013.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Colleen Wickland of Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium in Northampton restocks chocolates on Tuesday, February 12, 2013. The store has been particularly busy in anticipation of Valentine's Day.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Frank Boyden, owner of Knowles Flower Shop in Amherst, moves a Valentines Day gift before delivery Tuesday.JERREY ROBERTS
  • Frank Boyden, owner of Knowles Flower Shop in Amherst, makes an arrangement Tuesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Frank Boyden, owner of Knowles Flower Shop in Amherst, makes an arrangement Tuesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Frank Boyden, owner of Knowles Flower Shop in Amherst, makes an arrangement Tuesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

— Florist John LaSalle let out a sigh Tuesday when asked how many roses and other flower arrangements he expects to sell on Valentine’s Day.

“I have no idea, we’ve never really counted,” said LaSalle, the third-generation owner of LaSalle Florists Inc. in Whately. “We probably sell 1,500 to 2,000 roses, plus lots of other flowers.”

The shop’s staff is working overtime this week to handle an onslaught of orders. Extra drivers have been brought in for the time-consuming task of delivering flowers to as many as 20 different communities in Hampshire and Franklin counties.

It’s not just florists who take advantabe of the rush of customers leading up to Thursday’s annual day of love. Restaurants, jewelers, bakers and other retailers also roll out the red carpet in hopes of capitalizing on customers’ desire to spread love.

For the second year, Popcorn Noir in Easthampton is bringing back a popular Valentine’s Day event that includes dinner, a romantic silent movie, a bouquet of roses and chocolates. The business will also host a separate dinner for the public in its new restaurant and bar called The Lobby.

Like last year, the members-only event is expected to sell out, said Kristen Davis, who co-owns the business with her husband, Tom Doherty.

“We try to take care of everything,” Davis said. “People like that they get all of it together.”

She said she and Doherty don’t always get to celebrate Valentine’s Day on their own, so they try to incorporate the day into events they can enjoy with customers.

These are just two of many Valley businesses gearing up for an unofficial holiday in which people spend money — lots of it.

According to a survey conducted by BIGinsight for the National Retail Federation, Valentine’s Day spending is expected to reach $18.6 billion this year, a slight increase from last year.

The average person is expected to spend about $130 this year, up $5 from a year ago, with men spending an average of $175 compared to women at $88, the survey found. Candy will amount to about half of that spending, followed by flowers at 36 percent and jewelry at 20 percent.

According to the Society of American Florists, 224 million flowers were produced for Valentine’s Day last year, making it the top single-day holiday for florists. Sales are higher during Christmas and Mother’s Day, but those holidays stretch over a longer period of time.

Florists prepare

These figures aren’t lost on local business owners contacted by the Gazette this week.

Florist shops are already in overdrive, with several owners saying they were too busy for an interview. Others reported an uptick in pre-sales this year because Valentine’s falls on a Thursday.

“Valentine’s Day is usually a day-of kind of holiday, but since it’s on a Thursday people have all week to prepare,” said Rebecca Fitzgerald, who owns Forget Me Not Florist in Northampton.

To prepare, Fitzgerald ordered 67 cases of flowers for her two stores at 1 Roundhouse Plaza and in Thornes Marketplace, only to have last weekend’s snowstorm delay their delivery until Monday.

“We got 2,500 roses in yesterday,” Fitzgerald said Tuesday. “That’s a lot of thorns.”

LaSalle Florists expects to sell plenty of its popular freesia, which it grows in greenhouses on its property and uses in many of its flower arrangements.

In addition to those flowers, the company also beefs up its rose supply by buying roses from Ecuador and Columbia, carnations, daises and other popular flowers from other Central American countries, and other flowers from national and regional growers, LaSalle said.

Like all florist shops, Nuttleman’s Florist in Northampton is in the midst of a busy week made even busier by a delay in flower deliveries because of the storm.

Mary Nuttleman said the 135 Woodlawn Ave. store had its wholesale shipments trickle in early this week instead of over the weekend as expected.

That will mean long days for Nuttleman’s staff, who will have to hustle to fulfill orders for greeting cards, balloons, chocolates and “every sort of flower you can think of,” she said.

“We will be taking orders all the way up to Valentine’s Day morning,” she said.

Believe it or not, this week will be slightly less hectic for at least one local flower shop. Corina Miller opened Botaniste on Main Street in Easthampton just a few days before Valentine’s Day a year ago.

“Any florist can tell you that opening a flower shop a few days before Valentine’s Day is stressful,” Miller said Monday. “It was like going out into the ocean in a little canoe. This year I’m more organized.”

As a result, she expects sales to be a bit higher this year, thanks to many returning customers. Many of those customers are ordering artificial flowers.

“I think artificials are useful at this time of year, because not much is coming out of the ground,” she said.

Boost for restaurants

“As special occasions go, this is usually a good day for restaurants,” said Alex Krogh-Grabbe, executive director of the Amherst Business Improvement District. “Going out for a romantic dinner is a thing people do.”

Side Street Cafe in Florence is planning for a special Valentine’s dinner Thursday night, just a few weeks after lagging sales forced the restaurant to drop its dinner menu to focus on more popular lunch and catering options.

“We thought it would be a good time to focus on dinner and to give people a chance to come back for dinner for a special night,” said Patrick Shannon, owner and chef.

As of Tuesday, more than 110 people had signed up to celebrate Valentine’s night at the restaurant, which will have three seatings throughout the late afternoon and evening.

If successful, Shannon envisions opening the restaurant for other special-occasion dinners throughout the year.

The Amherst BID worked with 19 sit-down restaurants within the district and distributed gift certificates that it paired with passes to the Amherst Cinema.

“It’s definitely one of the top five busiest days in terms of dining out; only Mother’s Day is more popular,” said Robert Reeves, general manager at the Lord Jeffery Inn and 30Boltwood.

Reeves said 30Boltwood is offering a special four-course menu and other room packages that include overnight accommodations with dinner and breakfast included.

At Zoe’s Fish House on Route 9 in Hadley, owner Jim Sands expects Valentine’s Day to lead into a busier-than-normal Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“Having it fall on a Thursday should mean the whole weekend will be good,” Sand said.

The only drawback to the holiday is that only couples usually dine out, Sands said. Still, he expects more diners than a typical weeknight.

“It makes Thursday a busier night than it would be normally be,” Sands said.

Some jewelers are also seeing an increase in business leading up to Valentine’s Day, as more people plan ahead.

“When Valentine’s Day is on a weekend, we see a lot more last-minute shoppers, but when it’s during the week like this year, people tend to shop the weekend before,” said Lorrie Motyka, general manager of Silverscape Design in downtown Northampton.

While last weekend’s snowstorm closed the jewelry story for most of two days, Motyka said the shop still saw a “good amount” of foot traffic Sunday, and sales in January were the best since 2008.

“We expect February to follow in its footsteps,” Motyka said, driven in part by Valentine’s sales.

Silverscape offers a variety of gifts, some specially ordered for Valentine’s Day, including heart-related jewelry, paperweights, decorated boxes and handmade cards in a variety of price ranges.

“We get a lot of ‘deer in the headlights’ guys, but we can help them, even if they don’t know what they are looking for,” Motyka said.

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