Valentine’s Day means big business, long hours for merchants

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By Stephen Brooks
Williamston Post staff writer

Rae Harris, an employee at Vivee’s Floral Garden and Café, 142 W. Grand River Ave., trims a flower arrangement on Feb. 13 in preparation for Valentine's Day.

Rae Harris, an employee at Vivee’s Floral Garden and Café, 142 W. Grand River Ave., trims a flower arrangement on Feb. 13 in preparation for Valentine’s Day.

As countless consumers struggle to coordinate perfect plans and gifts for their significant others on Valentine’s Day, the pressure is multiplied for local businesses once Feb. 14 begins to roll around each year.

“Valentine’s Day is a huge, huge deal. We’ll do probably six weeks’ worth of business for this holiday,” said Dawn-Marie Joseph, owner of Vivee’s Floral Garden and Café, 142 W. Grand River Ave.

For Joseph and her employees, preparation for Valentine’s Day begins on New Year’s Day each year with organizing candy boxes and arrangements. The store offers a large collection of chocolates, some of which are made in-house and the rest of which come from Michigan-based vendors, Joseph said.

More than a week prior to the holiday, Joseph’s days have started around 8 a.m. and ended near midnight. She starts receiving her flower shipments, which all have to be trimmed, cleaned and taken care of with food and water.

On a normal day, the store would be staffed with two people, but on Valentine’s Day Joseph enlists the help of five or six delivery drivers and four employees in the store to help with the increased workload.

Vivee’s Floral Garden and Café offers delivery for personalized orders to the surrounding areas in Ingham County.

Orders begin piling up about a week prior to Valentine’s Day, Joseph said, with the most popular choice being a dozen red roses. She estimated the day before the holiday that her store would receive roughly 125 orders. A single rose costs $5 while a dozen is $65. The store offers packages that include chocolates as well.

“It’s hard to get red roses right now because there’s only so many that grow, and there’s a lot of us florists that are trying to get them,” Joseph said. “And the price goes up, and up, and up. Flowers are pretty expensive this time of year.”

Najah El-Haddad, owner of Williamston Florist and Greenhouse, 1448 W. Grand River Ave., also increases her staff on the special day, from about three employees normally up to eight. El-Haddad said Valentine’s Day takes a backseat only to Mother’s Day, “because everybody has a mother, but not everybody has a lover.”

El-Haddad said she began getting orders as early as two weeks ago from “those who are afraid to be in the doghouse,” and that red roses are her store’s most popular item as well.

Other businesses bloom, too

Flower and gift vendors aren’t the only ones that scramble to prepare for the holiday.

Ian Redmond, bar manager at Gracie’s Place, 151 S. Putnam St., said reservations for the restaurant’s Valentine’s Day special were completely booked two days prior to the holiday. Gracie’s Place offers a four-course meal with select options from a special menu for $45 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The restaurant, which will cook only with fresh ingredients it receives that day, offers packages with flowers and chocolates arranged on the table to greet guests, as well as wine pairings to go with each meal, he said.

Redmond said he expects 575-600 people will be served throughout the weekend.

“The food is excellent, locally sourced. You know you’re getting something special that you can’t get anywhere else in the city,” Redmond said.

“It’s just an overall enjoyed experience, and while it is busy, it’s still quite an enjoyable experience for a couple — you’re not in a big, noisy place. We try to keep it as romantic as possible.”

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