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It may be too late to snag a dinner reservation for Valentine’s Day, but all those procrastinators out there can still pick up the standard flowers or shiny bauble that says oh-so-subtly “I promise to think farther ahead next year.”
As of Monday afternoon, floor managers and restaurant owners were reporting only the odd 5 p.m. reservation opening, which they promised would be gone within 24 hours.
“We’re pretty much sold out,” said George Diaz, the director of food and beverage at the Marco Island Hilton.
To top it off, the Hilton’s restaurant, Sandcastles, will be hosting a 20-person wedding party late in the afternoon. Diaz said the reservation was booked just four weeks ago, a last-minute effort by most wedding planning standards.
While Hilton marketing specialist Jerry Atkinson said Valentine’s Day is not a particularly big day for his hotel, some area hotels are pushing to capture vacationers looking for a romantic getaway.
At Marco Beach Ocean Resort, General Manager Phillip Starlings said the hotel’s romantic retreat package has been booked by about 10 couples.
Room, tax and valet prices are bundled into the package, along with breakfast in bed every morning, a floral arrangement waiting in the room and other perks.
At the hotel’s restaurant, Sale e Pepe, seating has been extended to add about 30 percent more room than usual.
“We’ve got about 200 comers that night,” Starlings said.
At Cafe de Marco, Floor Manager Scott Terres reported, much to his surprise, that he was still taking reservations as of Monday evening. But, then again, they were going fast.
He couldn’t report any special events planned by patrons for the evening on Thursday, though he said it has not been uncommon in previous Valentine’s days for a diner to hand him a ring box and ask that it be presented with desert.
“It’s been pretty spontaneous in the past,” he said.
None of the island’s local jewelers are reporting recent sales of diamond engagement rings. However, Ella Combs, at Schilling Jewellers, said the store had sold a special piece to one man in advance of Valentine’s Day.
“I know there’s a gentleman who’s having his 50th anniversary and he’s getting a five karat yellow diamond ring for his wife,” Combs said.
Someone will be having a very special day.
Combs said business has been consistent at a moderate pace, but that she and others in the store would be hoping for a last-minute rush.
Schilling will be open until 6 p.m. Thursday, and Combs said that in addition to the storewide sale of 20 percent off all pink or red items, shoppers could find a range of other gifts like music boxes or real roses dipped in gold.
At Island Jewelers, Ricky Hart said business was down compared to last year.
“It has not been booming, and it’s been rather slow,” he said. “We expected it to be a little bit better.”
Recently, he said, the shop had redone an engagement ring for a woman married for 60 years, and he had seen a couple of wedding bands go out the door, but no particularly impressive pieces.
The store, which will be open until 6 p.m., Thursday, is having a special on a pair of heart-shaped garnet earrings and a diamond tennis bracelet, Hart said.
Up the road at Gulf Coast Jewelers, though, Derek Deveau said business has picked up quite a bit in recent weeks.
“It seems like from what I can see they’re kind of making up for a lackluster Christmas,” he said.
The items sold so far were “middle of the road,” he said.
Gulf Coast, like the others, will be open until 6 p.m., Valentine’s Day.
Floral shops on the island, too, will be catering to procrastinators throughout the day.
Many will continue to take orders through Thursday afternoon, with patrons invited to drop by as late as 6 or 7 p.m.
“Even in a bad year, Valentine’s is okay,” said Jerry Koutroulis, at Gene’s Fifth Ave Florist of Marco Island.
He said prices on roses, in particular, go up at this time of year.
“You have to follow the market,” he said.
So far, the biggest bouquet he has seen go out the door was a $300 arrangement filled with roses, orchids and cala lilies.
“We’ll be delivering until 6 o’clock and people can stop in,” he said. “We’ll be open until 6:30 or 7 — until everything is gone.”
Jan Bergantz, owner of China Rose Florist said her shop was even doing the arrangements for a couple of weddings this Valentine’s day.
“We usually don’t take weddings at all,” Bergantz said. “It’s just too busy.”
In this case, though, Bergantz said, the customers were ones she simply couldn’t say “no” to.
To accommodate the influx of last-minute orders during the flurry of Valentine’s Day, Bergantz said her shop will have a lot of flower arrangements made in advance so customers can pop in on their way home. She said China Rose would take delivery orders through mid-afternoon.
Nancy Kerrington, of Marco Island Florist, said business was up just a bit more than on a typical Valentine’s Day.
Her shop, as with others, will try to take orders for as long as possible on Thursday.
“But as the day gets shorter, it gets less likely we’ll be able to take the order,” she said.
So far, she said, a little bit of everything had been selling at her shop.
But, she said, “Roses are still the most popular.”