Despite some pandemic-related bumps, area retailers prepping for strong Valentine’s Day

As area businesses prepare for Valentine’s Day, ongoing supply-chain issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic are presenting a few small bumps in the road.

But local business owners say sales of the holiday staples such as flowers and candy should go smoothly — provided customers don’t wait until the last minute.

“They just need to place their orders as soon as they can because we want to make sure they get the flowers they want and the arrangements they want,” said Gloria Gaber, owner of White Florist in Dubuque.

According to Gaber, it has been difficult lately to obtain certain supplies for arrangements, including floral foam and vases.

“It seems like everything’s stuck somewhere in the ocean,” she said.

As for the flowers, Gaber placed all of her orders during the week after Christmas and has been assured that delivery of the blooms shouldn’t be impacted.

“According to the vendors, they are all ready to go, so we’re good there,” she said. “We’re hoping that everything’s going to come when it’s supposed to.”

At Butt’s Florist in Dubuque, manager Julie Gross also finalized her flower orders in early January. She said the business has not seen any Valentine’s Day delivery issues and is planning for strong sales, although the day of the week on which the holiday falls could affect customers’ buying patterns.

“With Valentine’s Day landing on a Monday, it’s a little difficult to judge it,” she said.

For example, she wonders if some couples will take an extended weekend getaway, affecting the volume of Valentine’s Day deliveries that Butt’s sends to workplaces.

“Also, there’s a lot of people that are still working from home, and we’re not sure what that’ll bring,” she said. “We prepare off our numbers from the last year, and we had a decent Valentine’s Day (in 2021).”

She said last year, the business completed about 375 deliveries on Valentine’s Day, with walk-in and pick-up orders pushing the day’s total over 500. That was about 30 to 50 fewer deliveries than nonpandemic years, but “nothing to worry about” in the scheme of the shop’s busiest day of the year.

The fact that Valentine’s Day falls on a Monday this year also will alter the business’s hours of operation. Butt’s Florist is typically closed on Sundays and open only in the morning on Saturdays. However, on Feb. 12 and 13 this year, it will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Other businesses also plan to adjust their operating hours.

Dubuque restaurant Pepper Sprout is typically closed on Mondays, but head chef Kim Wolff said on Feb. 14, it will be open from 5 to 9 p.m.

“Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve are two holidays that no matter what day of the week it falls on, we will be open,” Wolff said.

She said the restaurant will offer Valentine’s Day specials on Friday, Saturday and Monday, allowing customers to celebrate on the weekend if they choose.

Lisa Conner, restaurant manager at Caroline’s Restaurant in Dubuque, also expects to be busy on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. She said the holiday’s proximity to the weekend will spread out customers and help staff meet the demand — but reservations still are “highly recommended.”

“We are going to be very busy,” she said. “We will book up and probably be sold out a few days before Valentine’s Day.”

Dianne Paxton, owner of Kandy Kitchen in Galena, Ill., said the shop mainly sticks with its tried-and-true classics on Valentine’s Day, from pecan Georgies to sea salt caramel and English toffee.

“People tell us, ‘Don’t get us the big expensive boxes. We just want the good candy,’” she said.

This year, however, Paxton is introducing a new, noncandy product: a water globe containing a live rose, available in a variety of colors.

She also will offer the shop’s traditional chocolate-covered strawberries, which she urged customers to order in advance due to potential supply-chain issues.

“I don’t know how many I’ll be able to get because I can’t pre-order them this year, and everybody I talked to says they won’t know what they get until they get it,” she said.

Those who do put off purchasing their sweets or flowers should be open to substitutions, according to business owners.

“If they wait until the last minute, then we have a ‘designer’s choice,’” Gaber said. “We will design something beautiful, but it’s our design.”