When Christmas trees and Santas give way to hearts and cupids, there's no mistaking what holiday approaches.
When every store you walk into is drenched in pink and red and boxes of Russell Stover candies greet you as you walk into the supermarket, you know what day is coming up. As soon as florists start a special for a dozen red roses, Valentine's Day has arrived.
"My husband and I plan a special date night," Soldotna's Amy Larson said while shopping for a new cell phone at the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna on Monday. "We exchange gifts, go out to dinner, get a babysitter."
Even though there were only a few people at the mall around noon, many stores in the area have found their business has increased, particularly as Valentine's Day nears. A few stores have even increased their hours to accommodate last-minute gift-buyers and those who don't get off work until 6 p.m.
Sedona Florist in Soldotna extended its business hours an extra hour. Closing at 7 p.m. this week instead of 6 p.m. gives folks a little more time to get their flowers, said Manager Shelley McDonald. Business during Valentine's Day definitely picks up, she said, with the more popular items being the store's Valentine's gift boxes, which come with a stuffed animal, a box of chocolates or a trinket and an arrangement of fresh flowers.
"When we get closer to Valentine's it's a dozen roses," McDonald said. "Valentine's Day gives you the chance to do something foo foo and it gives you a chance to do some really big arrangements."
McDonald said there's currently a large hand-blown glass vase on the floor that houses a tropical arrangement. While a dozen red roses is always popular, she said if someone was looking for a change of pace, orchids and other tropical flowers are popular as well.
"We've got a huge tropical arrangement," she said. "It kind of gives you the chance to get a little more out there."
Charlene Paight, of The Frances Rose in Ninilchik, and Patricia Northup, of Pat's Cache in Soldotna, opened a kiosk together at the mall in October. Now that Valentine's Day is almost here, Paight decided she also would sell flower arrangements. But rather than getting her roses from Anchorage, she found it was cheaper to fly them here from the Lower 48.
"I can sell roses and not gouge people," she said.
Paight said the shop in Ninilchik is normally seasonal. She and Northup decided to experiment with the kiosk through the holidays and beyond.
"I'm determined to be an entrepreneur," she said. "It's nice to have a permanent location."
Nuson Smith, owner of Passions, an adult novelty shop at the mall, likens Valentine's Day to Christmas. He normally sees a good influx of people a few days before, but he said sometimes the shop will be busy for two solid weeks after Valentine's Day. Some of the more popular items at Passions include lingerie and intimate enhancers such as massage oil.
"It's a critical day for a business like mine," he said. "Like Christmas is for more mainstream retailers."
Smith said he grew up in Soldotna and ran the store when his father retired. Some people may not agree with what he sells, but Smith maintains his store isn't any different from one that sells alcohol, tobacco or guns. A good thing about his store, he said, is there's a small market for the items he sells, meaning there's not much competition. But during hard times the demand for his products decreases.
Smith decided to open his store Monday this week instead of his normal business days of Tuesday through Saturday. He said if Valentine's Day fell on a Sunday or if Sunday was the day before Valentine's Day, he would be open on Sundays, but he's generally closed.
Larson said she and her husband will probably go to the movies Thursday. In addition to her cell phone, she said her husband usually gives her a card and some candy.
"(Valentines) is just the one time a year where you really take the time to tell the person you're with how much they mean to you," she said.
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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