For many locals, Feb. 14 is a day filled with flowers, chocolate and a relaxing night out. But local business owners say Valentine’s Day is anything but relaxing. It’s a day in which they anticipate frantic phone calls, extended work hours and a volume of sales that would normally span a few months. However, they say, it gives them a chance to get creative and play cupid for the day.
Stan Tropiano, owner of the flower and tux shop Carlino of Roxborough, said most of his arrangements go to locals in Roxborough, as well as surrounding neighborhoods and towns.
But other business owners, such as Elizabeth Paradiso of Sweet Elizabeth’s in Manayunk and Arthur Cavaliere of In Riva in East Falls, said their customers come from all over Philadelphia, rather than just the surrounding neighborhoods.
But one thing is for sure—all three know from experience that they can expect customers to be scrambling until the last minute to gather sentimental items to impress their loved ones.
It’s either one rose or 100
Tropiano is no rookie when it comes to Valentine’s Day. After starting up his flower shop on Ridge Avenue 37 years ago, he’s learned it’s all hands on deck for the romantic holiday. Normally, it’s just him and one other employee in the shop. On Tuesday, he plans to have about 10 people to help with the controlled chaos.
“We do normally, in one day, as much as we do in three and a half months,” said Tropiano.
Tropiano said he currently has 50 orders to fill for Valentine’s Day. But come Monday, he estimates he’ll have as many as 400.
“Every year it’s like a floating holiday to men,” he said. “And then all of a sudden they realize it while they’re stuck at the office.”
So to prepare for the chaos, Tropiano has pre-made about 50 bows, readied baskets for floral arrangements, created goodie baskets and organized his supplies. But he knows it won’t be enough.
“Come Monday, we’ll go ‘my God, did we do anything?'” he said.
Tropiano said the reason he receives quite a bit of business is because when men think of the holiday, their minds jump right to flowers, particularly roses.
“That’s what every man thinks every woman wants,” he said.
Tropiano said he will have to arrange anywhere from one to 100 flowers and that prices will range anywhere from $10 to $100.
Something sweet for everyone
Although it’s Paradiso’s first Valentine’s Day at her cupcake bakery on Main St., she knows what to anticipate.
“It’s not like Christmas where people will think ahead,” she said. “I think that people are last minute.”
But since she bakes all her goodies fresh, she worked toward variety—offering her normal sweet treats along with a plated dessert, something she doesn’t normally do.
“We’re trying to make sure we’ll have something sweet for everyone who comes in,” she said. “And if not, you snooze you lose.”
Paradiso wants to offer her customers a sweet, but inexpensive date by offering a plate for two that she calls the Romeo and Juliet. Customers can come in and sit down with a dessert for two and a complimentary glass of champagne for $10 per person.
She also created special recipes for Valentine’s Day—like the Hunka’ Hunka’ Burning Love, a chocolate chip cake with cinnamon chocolate ganache and candied hot pepper.
“It’s one of those holidays that people aren’t looking for traditional,” she said. “It’s one of those times for thinking outside the cupcake box.”
Sweet Elizabeth’s will also offer conversation hearts with a twist. Paradiso said she’ll have the typical phrases such as “be mine,” as well as some “R-rated” ones too.
In addition to unique treats, Paradiso also said she is keeping her shop open later than usual for customers.
Paradiso expects to celebrate Valentine’s Day with her husband on Wednesday.
As far as romantic stories, Paradiso said she looks forward to the possibility of becoming part of one.
In the past, one of her customers proposed to his girlfriend by popping an engagement ring into one of Paradiso’s cupcakes.
“I was flattered to be part of their engagement story,” she said, adding that the couple also came back to order their wedding cake.
A relaxed and romantic night
In Riva in East Falls is also new to Valentine’s Day, but after Cavaliere’s six years working for Starr restaurants, he began preparing early by sitting down and creating a special menu about a month ago.
His plans for a three-course meal took all of 20-minutes, but they were handmade for Valentine’s Day.
In Riva will be offering a three-course meal for $35, and an additional $20 for wine pairing.
As of Thursday, Cavaliere said he had 40 reservations but could handle a total of 160.
Cavaliere also expects a lot of reservations to be last minute. But he isn’t worried.
“It’s really an easy day because it’s rapid-fire service,” he said.
Cavaliere added that most tables will consist of two people, instead of larger numbers. So orders won’t be as high in volume, but good service is key, he adds.
“A big piece [of preparing for Valentine’s Day] is staff education, just like you would [have at] an opening of the restaurant,” he said.
Cavaliere said he’ll have some additional servers and bartenders on deck for the evening.
Most restaurants, Cavaliere expects, will be offering higher-end dishes, such as lobster and filet mignon. But Cavaliere said he is going to stay true to his restaurant’s atmosphere.
“We have a casual vibe here,” he said.
That’s why his family friend, Michael Costa, is bringing his wife to the restaurant for Valentine’s Day.
“We’re here a lot and I love all the food,” he said, adding that his wife is also a fan of the eatery. “I’m not the most romantic person, so here I can walk in and let the atmosphere create the ambience.”
Costa also looks forward to his plans because of In Riva’s laid back nature—the restaurant has an open kitchen—so he can feel free to give his wife a silly, but sweet, present, without being embarrassed.