Valentine's Day lasts longer than just Feb. 14 for local businesses

Shops labor for love

The candy, cards and flowers of Valentine’s Day take months of preparation for some local businesses.

“It’s so much more than just one day for us,” said Deborah Partridge, co-founder of Martina’s Flowers and Gifts, which has two Augusta locations.

Partridge said she has to place her rose order for Valentine’s Day in November because it takes seven weeks for a rose to grow. In January, she places her orders for containers and other supplies, making her best guess as to how many people will celebrate Valentine’s Day with Martina’s this year.

To handle the blur of Tuesday, Martina’s takes on nearly 40 seasonal employees for the month leading up the holiday. That includes floral designers, salespeople and delivery workers, who play an important part in the carefully orchestrated day.

“We’ve worked really hard to become efficient,” Partridge said. “Because we prepare, we can typically take orders later than other florists.”

Americans are expected to spend more than $17 billion for Valentine’s Day this year, according to the National Retail Federation.The day after Valentine’s will have a trickle of business, customers Partridge calls the “oops, I forgot group.”

At La Bonbonniere chocolatier in Augusta and Aiken, Bebette Smith starts molding chocolate hearts during the first week in January. She makes about 800 in four graduated sizes, which will hold filled chocolate truffles. Those have to be made the week before Valentine’s to meet Smith’s high standard of freshness. She made 5,000 truffles in the past week. Even with so much business, Smith won’t delegate chocolate-making to anyone else.

“Nobody touches my chocolates,” she said.

On Tuesday, Smith will get up early and start dipping strawberries in chocolate, a process done as late as possible to ensure the best taste.

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