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Mar. 5, 2021 | Friday
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Love is in the air as NOTL florists prepare for Valentine's Day
Willow Cakes & Pastries staff are busy preparing Valentine’s Day treats. In photo: Heidi Jimm-Johnson (top left), Megumu Kawarada (top right), Carol Giang (bottom left) and Annika Johnson (bottom right). (Supplied)

Vicky Qiao
Special to Niagara Now/The Lake Report

In-person shopping and restaurant dinners may be cancelled because of the pandemic — but love isn’t.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, businesses in Niagara-on-the-Lake are making sure that people can still celebrate the special occasion with their loved ones.

Regal Florist, for one, is expecting an extra busy week.

It’s going to be a strong Valentine's Day thanks to COVID "and just people reaching out to each other,” says Darrell Boer, the owner of Regal Florist.

The Virgil florist has been in operation for over 30 years and for Valentine’s Day this year, Boer says many people are ordering flowers not only for their romantic partners but also for friends.

“Because of COVID, we can’t see our friends face to face,” he says.

“Valentine's can be an emotional time for some anyway and it pulls on people's heartstrings. They're not just thinking of their husband or wife, they're thinking of their friends as well.”

With travel restrictions and public health measures in place, many people won’t be able to unite with their loved ones on Feb. 14. And some choose to send flowers for their valentines although they can’t deliver them in person.

“We got orders from all across Canada and the U.S. even,” says Boer, noting he had just taken an order from a man in Buffalo.

“His girlfriend is here (in) Niagara-on-the-Lake, he can't see her, he can't get across the border.”

Having been in business for 60 years, Van Noort Flower Studio is another florist that has been bringing blossoms and joy to the community.

“I've been in this for 35 years and I never tire of flowers. Never," says Sharon van Noort, the co-owner of the studio. "They always put a smile on my face and I work with it every day,”

People who can't see loved ones because they are in nursing homes, for instance, are sending more flowers because they can't take them out to dinner, she says.

Social media is one of the top strategies Van Noort Flower Studio has adopted since the pandemic, Van Noort says. 

“Flowers are very much a visual thing.... people like to see them, and when they can't come in and pick out what they like, it's hard for the consumer.”

Van Noort says she has been posting almost every day on the studio’s Instagram account and getting a lot more followers.

Her store isn’t the only small business that has to change its tactics.

“We went from this high-end patisserie where people were coming in and spending a couple of hours at a time, sitting and enjoying our coffee and a croissant, to now being just a seller,” says Sean O’Donnell, of Willow Cakes and Pastries. 

The patisserie has been partnering with other small businesses and entrepreneurs as a way to tackle the challenge and provide a better experience for customers, O’Donnell says.

For this Valentine’s Day, the store partnered with a local jeweller (who happens to be O’Donnell’s niece’s teacher) to create a heart-shaped chocolate jewelry box. 

“It’s got chocolate designs, chocolate flowers on it … and your choice of a pendant and chain to go with it.”

The chocolate smash-box is another Valentine’s Day special created by the patisserie. The person who receives it can smash the hollow chocolate shell open to find a surprise inside.

“We've been fairly fortunate. We've seen a lot more local turnout and a lot more new customers than we have in the past,” O’Donnell says.

Van Noort says getting gift certificates is a great way to help local shops survive during this challenging time.

“Go go and buy that gift certificate and dinner for your favourite restaurant. I can't say it enough with small businesses and you live in a small town, we got to support each other.”

For Valentine’s Day, Van Noort is hoping to take the restaurant experience home to enjoy her favourite local wine and Haggard fried chicken sandwich from Silversmith Brewery. 

“Honestly, best burger going. So I'm hoping that my husband and my son will order that for me,” she says.