Niagara-on-the-Lake businesses are gearing up for what they hope to be a busy Valentine’s Day.
Florists, chocolate shops, wineries, tour guides and restaurants across town are anticipating a jump in business.
Local florists are already busy taking orders and preparing arrangements for the inevitable last-minute shoppers. Carole Audette-Boucock, store manager of Van Noort Florists on Four Mile Creek Road, says she tends to see a lot of them.
“It’s in a very small amount of time, within a few days. Everything is last-minute — people just show up,” she said, adding they do get a few people who pre-order. She estimates the business sees about a 70 per cent increase in sales during the couple of days leading up to Feb. 14. Customers tend to be mostly men, she added.
Hand-tied bouquets are the shop’s best sellers, so she tries try to have them pre-arranged for quick pick-up. Orders of six or a dozen roses are also popular.
Regal Florist and Garden Centre on Niagara Stone Road has noticed more advance orders this year, said the store’s lead designer Lindsey Harvey.
Being in a retirement community, the bulk of their Valentine’s Day business happens in the days leading up to Feb. 14, she said.
“It’s not all in one day like it used to be. A lot of our clients come in a few days before. It is a quieter time of year for us, so we definitely see the increase in business over the week leading up to and surrounding Valentine’s Day.”
On par with a demand for flowers, local chocolatiers are also feeling the heat of Cupid’s big day.
Sandra Theal, chocolate moulder with Chocolate F/X in St. Davids, said everyone is in “full swing” making treats. This year they’re focusing on fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate — a top seller around Valentine’s Day.
“We help people to win the hearts of others … If you ever want to win somebody over, it’s with chocolate,” Theal says.
Also specializing in chocolate-dipped strawberries, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company is ready for Valentine’s Day.
“One of the big things we do down here are strawberries. We have long-stemmed, big strawberries we bring in special for Valentine’s Day. We’ll dip them in our homemade milk chocolate. They’ll be festive for Valentine’s Day.”
Manager Sean Bell, a self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades at Rocky Mountain, said the store stays busy year-round just from the foot traffic on Queen Street, but admits Valentine’s Day brings an influx of new customers.
“We’re a busy location all 12 months of the year, but a little slower now. I’ve reached out to businesses and locals around and we’ve created a really good vibe in the store. We get a lot of repeat business in this location.”
Bell said the shop’s icewine-infused dark chocolate-dipped truffles, which he claims are unique to the region, are especially popular.
“It’s a dark chocolate truffle centre … infused with icewine and dipped in dark chocolate. The idea is that the dark chocolate will temper the icewine’s sweetness.”
He said dark chocolate is best because anything else would be too sweet, and he is proud to use locally made icewine from Pillitteri Estates Winery.
The truffles are the shop’s best seller this season, Bell said.
The Wineries of NOTL are holding their Days of Wine and Chocolate event every weekend throughout February, to combine chocolate with NOTL’s famous beverage.
Richard Mell of Grape Escape Wine Tours said while the tour company doesn’t offer a specific package for Valentine’s Day, what’s available is already appealing to customers’ romantic sides.
“The Days of Wine and Chocolate is kind of what people gravitate toward for the romance side of it.”
Grape Escape keeps busy with bookings throughout the month as a result, he said.
Laura Sentineal, co-owner of Sentineal Carriages, said she also usually sees an increase in business, adding Valentine’s Day is a fun time for them, bringing some unique bookings.
“We get these somewhat nervous young men calling, wanting to do something special. We try to help them and walk them through it. We’ll suggest a restaurant, things like that, and help them plan a really special evening,” she said.
Proposals are big this time of year as well, with many having been booked already.
Sentineal Carriages offers tours ranging from half-an-hour to an hour, recommending shorter tours during the cooler weather. While the staff are prepared for the cold, they try to make the ride as cozy as possible.
“We have big warm blankets and invite them to bring something warm to drink along the way.”
Local restaurants are expecting a high turnout for dinner, many offering special menus for the occasion.
Lori Semenach, manager of The Old Winery Restaurant on Niagara Stone Road, said the restaurant is offering a fixed-price, three-course meal. Reservations are filling up quickly, she said.
There seems to be no shortage of opportunities to celebrate Valentine’s Day locally this year.