By Marjorie Nesin
---- — GLOUCESTER — The mad dash to scoop up Valentine’s flowers, chocolates and teddy bears kept Cape Ann businesses bustling Wednesday, and the last-minute treat buying and fancy dining should continue today.
A chocolate store in downtown Gloucester flooded with customers around noon Tuesday. Though many might expect a crowd of men escaping the looming doghouse, Turtle Alley was an almost even mixture of men and women, and owner Hallie Baker said that is the norm.
”It’s not all men on Valentine’s Day,” Baker said. She stood funneling chocolate over caramel and nuts, creating the store’s namesake turtles. Nearly a dozen employees, a third more than usual, whirled around behind the counter, grabbing heart decorated ribbons, pulling trays of treats, and placing chocolates into boxes.
The store is celebrating their first Valentine’s Day in the new Rogers Street location since their move from Washington Street last year and the business is soaring in comparison, Baker said, the work day lunch hour being an especially popular time to visit. The big bump in business is countered only by the largest valentine in town, featured in the store, a heart shaped box containing four pounds of chocolate.
”We used to have the doghouse valentine, but this thing is so huge we had to give it a new name,” Baker said, gesturing to the “Get out of jail free” valentines.
Across town at Audrey’s Flower Shop, employees have been waking and smelling the roses for days now, to the point where they hardly notice the fragrance anymore. The store’s cooler is filled with bouquets completed and two designers have been working nearly around the clock, clipping stems, and arranging roses, carnations and lilies then adding in fun feathers and sparkly wires as popping details.
”We’re just here non-stop,” said store manager DeeDee Noble. “We just keep moving.”
The typical vases flowing with roses fill the cooler and carnations and carnations are a favorite among older people, according to Noble. But, the store has processed some unique orders this year, too — including a bouquet of green carnations.
While flowers and chocolate are nearly universal gifts for today’s holiday, some couples gather in Essex each year for a pair of lobsters at Woodman’s, many of them paying homage to a popular first date location, according to restaurant marketing spokeswoman Bonnie Scatterday.
“You often have people who will do it as a nostalgic and reminiscent kind of thing,” Scatterday said. “We have regular customers and they’ll tell stories of how it was their first date.”
Of course, the restaurant is open to all customers, new and seasoned, and the owners advertised the holiday deal to last through Sunday with a poem on their Facebook page.
”Lobsters are red, Mussels are blue, Come to Woodman’s, And enjoy the lobster special for two!,” the site read.
Tuck’s Candies in Rockport is another store that knows a thing or two about Valentine’s Day traditions, with the family having owned the store for 125 years and 125 Valentine’s Days. The chocolatier still uses his grandfather’s recipes to make the goodies that some Rockporters count on for lovable gifts.
April Orlando filled a baggie with saltwater taffy in coconut and watermelon flavors, her 12-year-old daughter’s favorite. She rested the bag on top of cards picked from a rack in the store.
Though Laurie Tuck, who manages the store, started to see a steady flow of customers, punctuated by moms like April and honeys buying a little something for their sweetheart yesterday, the Saturday closure forced by the blizzard still took a hard toll, she said.
“The storm over the weekend killed us. Saturday was such a sad day to be closed,” she said.
The storm seemed to have little Valentine’s effect on restaurants, on the other hand. The Landing in Manchester was about half booked for tonight as of Wednesday, and managing owner Chris Shea expects a great turn out starting Thursday and lasting through the weekend and maybe even more reservations to come.
“This is the day when the phone starts ringing. All the guys start saying ‘Oh my gosh, I gotta make reservations,” Shea said.
Shea and his employees plan to rearrange tables and chairs into groups of two, and the staff is geared up for a busy handful of days, Shea said.
“It’s nice when Valentine’s Day is during the week, because it makes for a few good business days,” he said.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.