As Valentine’s Day fast approaches, local businesses expect a significant boost in sales as splurging romantics celebrate the holiday by dining out and exchanging gifts.
Though the exact origin of Valentine’s Day is disputed, the popularity of the celebration is traced back to the Middle Ages, when Pope Gelasius named the 14 of February St. Valentine’s Day in honor of Valentinus, who died on the Via Flaminia that day. Later, it became tradition for male suitors to woo their love interests through cards and gifts. Today, the holiday is celebrated in various cultures across the globe.
Royer’s Flowers & Gifts, a florist based in Lebanon with branches located throughout Central Pennsylvania, starts to prepare its Valentine’s Day arrangements right after Christmas.
Barry Spengler, vice president of operations, said one of the company’s owners heads to Bogota, Colombia, to purchase the roses. Once they’ve been selected, they’re flown to Miami, trucked to Pennsylvania and are cut here before they are distributed to the stores a few days before the holiday.
Royer’s gets so busy at this time of year that the store offers an incentive for customers to order their flowers to be delivered a day in advance.
“People like everything delivered Valentine’s Day ... but there’s no way it’s humanly possible to deliver everything in one day,” Spengler said. “So what we do is we offer an incentive, if you get it delivered the day before, you get a coupon for a free dozen roses, which can be redeemed March 1 to April 16. The bigger incentive that people like is we’ll guarantee delivery the day before, which is Wednesday by noon.”
Josh Durham, manager of Parker Jewelers, a Carlisle family-owned jewelry store, said they have already had an influx of customers in the past weeks.
When asked about the most popular gifts, he said that although some engagement rings are sold, it tends to be smaller tokens that sell the best.
“We do a lot of sterling silver,” he said. “One line that everyone really, really loves is sterling silver. The prices are anywhere from $20 to $200.”
But jewelers aren’t the only ones who see a sales boost around Valentine’s Day. Local restaurants are also expecting big crowds — mainly parties of two — this week, as couples choose to celebrate on the weekend rather than the Thursday night.
“Whenever a holiday like this falls in the middle of the week, it has a tendency to stretch it out. So instead of having one really big day, we have three or four pretty busy days. It makes it a little bit more manageable,” said Kirsten Layser, manager of Café Bruges in Carlisle.
Because the holiday lands on a Thursday, Rillo’s of Carlisle will extend its recognition of the day.
“We run our specials Wednesday through Sunday because not everybody can get in the 14th,” owner Jeff Goss said.
For these businesses, Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest times of the year, and it is not only the customers who enjoy the day.
At Rillo’s, the specialty chefs get a chance to feature new items on the menu. This year, the pastry chefs will offer white chocolate strawberry crème brulee and heart shaped chocolate ganache cake.
“It’s fun for the employees,” Goss said.
Ross Morris, owner of Piatto in Carlisle, admits that while it is the second busiest day for restaurants in America — trailing only slightly behind Mother’s Day — the holiday is actually “both a blessing and a curse for the restaurant industry.” Because restaurants take mainly parties of two, tips are lower for waiters and certain tables can’t be used.
“The magic of the restaurant world is you want every seat to be used,” he said. “You’re ruling out half your seats that night because there will be so few groups of four.”
But, despite the fact that the day itself can be tough on the staff, Morris also added that the holiday brings a sense of optimism to the industry. “Normally Valentine’s Day is the point in the year when everything comes back to life,” Morris said. “Restaurants tend to die around the first of the year because everyone’s on a diet and everyone gets their credit card bills and realizes they spent too much at Christmas.”
Though many restaurants took a hit during the economic downturn of the past few years, Rillo’s and other local restaurants are still confident they will have packed houses.
“For this event, usually people will save even if they might not go out the rest of February,” Goss said.