The staples of a great Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart – flowers, candy and delicious food – equal big business for local establishments specializing in romantic fare.
Chris Delzell, left, and Dena Anderson place bouquets in five giant refrigeration trucks that will hold the majority of Valentine’s Day orders for Pugh’s Flowers, 2435 Whitten Road.
(Photos: Lance Murphey)
Annual Valentine’s Day spending in the U.S. totals more than $13 billion, according to numbers from the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association and statisticsbrain.com. The average consumer spends $120 wooing that special someone on Valentine’s Day.
For Pugh’s Flowers, which has operated in Memphis for 35 years and has three local stores, Valentine’s Day is its biggest holiday of the year, nearly doubling its business from Mother’s Day, its second busiest time each year.
“On Valentine’s Day alone we will do 1,500 to 2,000 deliveries compared to about 120 deliveries on a normal day,” said Debbie Crawford, Pugh’s marketing and sales director. “We have to hire more than 100 new drivers, 30 new designers and 10 new phone sales staff.
“It is really an art in expanding a business, and then it shrinks back down after Valentine’s Day.”
The temporary staff will work for the company for only a few weeks. Pugh’s prepares the majority of the arrangements in advance, and the company rents an 18-wheel refrigerated cooler to store the flowers and keep them fresh until delivery.
“Roses are the big seller, and our Romance Plus package – with roses, lilies, a teddy bear, chocolates and a balloon - so far has been our biggest seller,” Crawford said.
Nationwide more than 196 million roses are produced on average each year for Valentine’s Day, and the revenue from domestically cut flowers is $403 million.
This year Pugh’s has also begun carrying specialty chocolates from Phillip Ashley Chocolates, a local candy designer.
“No two of his chocolates are alike, and he has some really interesting flavors like maple bacon, sweet potato and Spanish saffron,” Crawford said.
Other romantic items available from Pugh’s for Valentine’s Day include rose petals and stuffed pink elephants.
Floral designers work to produce thousands of floral arrangements for Valentine’s Day at Pugh’s Flowers. Owner Tim Pugh said nearly 20,000 roses will be used.
Dinstuhl’s Fine Candy Co. also experiences huge sales this time of year.
“Valentine’s is our second-largest season of the year, and it is our largest day of the entire year,” said company president Rebecca Dinstuhl.
The Christmas season, lasting five to six weeks, is the largest every year for the candy company, while the much shorter Valentine’s season is concentrated into just two to three days.
“We will make 5,000 pounds of chocolate-covered strawberries in two days for Valentine’s Day,” Dinstuhl said. “On an average strawberry production day we typically make 200 pounds to 300 pounds, so we have to gear up to prepare for it. It’s definitely an all-hands-on-deck production.”
Dinstuhl’s is 111 years old this year and has three local stores, including its candy-making headquarters and retail store on Pleasant View Road. Its chocolates for its heart-shaped boxes are made fresh and hand-packed after the first of the year. Fifth-generation candy maker Andrew Dinstuhl works in the kitchen preparing a variety of special treats and supervising production throughout the year.
Other popular specialty items created for Valentine’s Day include heart-shaped chocolate fudge pops, marshmallow hearts and chocolate-covered red grapes, and this year the company is debuting a new heart-shaped tin box with three kinds of butter brittles.
“Valentine’s is our second-largest season of the year, and it is our largest day of the entire year.”
President, Dinstuhl’s Fine Candy Co.
To prepare for the frenzy of its two busy seasons, Dinstuhl’s begins ramping up its staff in the fall.
“We have an increased staff of approximately 38 beginning in October and running all the way through Mother’s Day,” Dinstuhl said.
Many local restaurants see packed houses on Valentine’s Day and feature specially prepared menus.
At Sweet Grass in the Cooper-Young area, Feb. 14 will feature a prix fixe four-course menu.
This year’s special menu, designed by Chef Ryan Trimm, will include a fried oyster salad, butternut squash, or lobster bisque for the first course; coffee-rubbed pork belly, smoked salmon tourine, or beef carpaccio for the second course; Cornish game hen, frog legs, venison, or shrimp and grits for the third course; and a pear tart of Heath Bar truffle for dessert.
“Valentine’s Day always ends up being a good night with a lot of reservations,” said Sweet Grass manager Scott Gentleman.