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The Business of Love
Written by Kelly Chandler, Staff Writer

        Love is in the air, everywhere you look around. And with Valentine's Day just around the corner, people are turning to local businesses to mark the occasion for that special someone.

        According to a poll last month conducted by the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend about $17.3 million on loved ones this holiday. The average person will reportedly spend $133.91 on candy, cards, dinner and gifts.  And men, it turns out, plan to spend more than twice as much as their female counterparts on gifts alone, an average of $108, according to the survey.    

         Kathy Eckard has a lot of Valentine's experience as the co-owner of Gardner's Candies in Pennsburg.

        "We're in the business of emotions," she said.  "People have brought in engagement rings, diamond necklaces…It's fun but it does get busy in here the day before and day of [Valentine's Day]."

        Eckard said one couple sticks out in her mind.  About 18 years ago, when she and her husband, Gary, first opened their Gardner's location, a young man from Gilbertsville came in sporting a jewelry box.  Inside was a beautiful engagement ring.  He wanted to hide the ring in a box of gourmet chocolates to propose.

        "He was extremely nervous about it," Eckard reminisced.  "But it worked out well.  They got married and we did their wedding favors; they had kids and we did their baby shower favors.  Now they come in for things for their kids.

        "That's basically what our business is.  People come in for the custom experience.  They get quality gifts and know they're giving something really nice that people will enjoy."

        At Gardner's, Valentine's favorites include the company's famous peanut butter meltaways, truffles, chocolate-covered strawberries and customized gift baskets and candy hearts with gourmet chocolates.

        "Back in the day, it was all about the chocolate.  The chemicals in chocolate give you that good feeling, like the first time you fell in love," she said.  "It brings good emotions."   

        But lately the trend has been to include teas, many of them organic, all-natural food gifts and plant-based skin care products.

        "Customers want higher quality," Eckard noted.  "And the fellas, many of them come in at the last minute, but they know they better not come home empty-handed."

        At the Harleysville Florist & Godiva, Director Randy Snyder reinforced that flowers are the ever-popular option for letting loved ones know how you feel.  The florist, inside Landis Supermarket in Upper Salford Township, is swamped with orders for the holiday and many times the day after, for those who may have forgotten.

        "It's plain tradition," said Snyder, who noted the florist usually sells out of roses by the close of business the day after Valentine's Day.  "In this cold weather, flowers in a home says it all."

        Snyder said recently the tradition of bringing home roses for the one you love has been replaced by tulips, carnations and other types of flowers.

        "It's not always roses.  Any type of flower can mean a lot to a person," he said.  "And we treat everyone the same to create something special whether they're spending $10 or $100."

        While red roses have been a favorite for decades, everyone has their individual preferences.  Evelyn Falter, of Upper Salford, was the recipient of an early Valentine's delivery of a dazzling bouquet of Gerbera daisies, mini carnations and irises from her husband, John.

        "I enjoy getting flowers, especially when it's a surprise," Falter said.  "He never misses a date.  It makes you feel appreciated and conveys that message of love that they appreciate what you've done." 

        The confection and floral industries aren't the only ones benefiting from Valentine's Day commerce, however. 

        According to Urbanspoon, a leading online restaurant guide, tomorrow's holiday is the second busiest of the year next to Mother's Day for taking loved ones out to eat.  

        John Burke, owner/manager of the Sumneytown Hotel, said he expects Valentine's weekend to be an eventful one for his staff.

        The restaurant is featuring high-end specials like 8 oz. filet minon and lobster tail, crab imperial and dijon-crusted salmon.

        "People generally come out to treat their loved one," he said.  "And it's small, cozy and quiet here.  People like that."

        Susan Scott, owner of Revivals Restaurant in Perkasie, said her venue usually has a bustling holiday weekend as they run meat and seafood lovers' offerings for two, prime rib  and other specials from Thursday, Feb. 13 through Sunday, Feb. 16 to accommodate guests.

        Scott said she sees people coming out, especially on this holiday, to take a rare break from their busy, everyday lives.

        "It's a day to stop, take everything in and celebrate our loved one," she said.  "And that's a good thing."





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