Local chocolate shops, florists keep guys 'out of the dog house' on Valentine's Day

Corey Perrine/Staff 
 Brittany Mateika, production manager, stirs ganache Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 at Royal Palm Chocolates in Naples, Fla. The 3 1/2 year-old confection business has been growing each year and is one of the many to help shoppers make Valentine's Day complete, sometimes at a moments notice.

Photo by COREY PERRINE, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

Corey Perrine/Staff Brittany Mateika, production manager, stirs ganache Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 at Royal Palm Chocolates in Naples, Fla. The 3 1/2 year-old confection business has been growing each year and is one of the many to help shoppers make Valentine's Day complete, sometimes at a moments notice.

Philip Fincher doesn't rely on your procrastination. But he looks forward to your last-minute business as a nice bonus every Valentine's Day.

"We had a guy on his lunch hour break once who heard our radio ad in the car and realized 'I better get out of the dog house before I get in it,'" said Fincher, who, along with his wife Stephanie, owns Royal Palm Chocolates in North Naples.

Valentine's Day is big business for Southwest Florida candy shops and florists. For many, it's the biggest single day of sales of the year.

Royal Palm's customer base is typically women between 40 and 55, who are looking for gifts year round. But on Valentine's Day, many local stores are typically swarmed by frantic men who aren't just looking for the freshest flowers and sweets — they likely forgot the holiday all together.

"Time gets away from them and all of the sudden they go 'I'll just go get chocolate because everybody loves chocolate,'" said Laurie Rose, owner of Olde Naples Chocolate.

This week, the shelves at Royal Palm Chocolates will be stocked with heart-shaped lollipops and chocolates, plus grab-and-go gift boxes with strawberries, champagne and an assortment of chocolates for the guys who come in asking for "whatever you've got," Fincher said.

At Olde Naples Chocolate, the Valentine's Day chocolates are made up to a month in advance as customers begin placing orders for pick-up Feb. 14, Rose said.

That's when "it's like someone turns a switch on and you open your doors and there's a line out the door," Rose said. "The next day there's no one."

Rose said Valentine's Day is still a traditional chocolate holiday. Not much has changed in 10 years of business.

"We have a customer who comes in every year and gets the same heart-shaped box and fills it every year," Rose said. "The only thing that's changed really is the preference for dark chocolate over milk chocolate. They go for the healthier choice on that."

The Finchers have been in business for four years and plan ahead so that they don't need to hire additional staff when the rush starts. Rose staffs four people year round but adds three more employees in February.

At Gene's 5th Ave. Florist, business is between 10 and 20 times higher around Valentine's Day than any other time of year, edging out the week of Mother's Day. Deliveries peak Feb. 14.

Owners Mark Fessenden and his wife Barbara staff three or four drivers year round but add 15 to 20 more to make deliveries on Valentine's Day.

"It's still a pretty old-fashioned kind of holiday," Fessenden said of the tradition of sending flowers. "People still do it."

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