“All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt!” ~Lucy Van Pelt (In Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz)
You might call it a sweet economic indicator.
The National Retail Federation anticipates that consumers will increase their Valentine’s Day spending 8.5 percent over last year, amounting to around $17.6 billion dollars; that's $126.03 per consumer on average.
“Additionally, half of all celebrants (50.5 percent) will buy candy,” adding up to about $1.5 billion in sales, according to the group’s projections.
Danville’s sweets shops are feeling some of that love.
“Last year we had a really successful Valentine’s Day,” said Brianna Moore, the manager of on East Prospect Avenue. Sales this year are on track to be even stronger, she said.
As Valentine’s Day looms next Tuesday, it’s getting busier, but it’s the calm before the storm.
“The week leading up to (Valentine’s Day) is busy for us, but Valentine’s Day itself is our busiest day of the entire year,” said Moore.
If you haven't yet secured your Valentine's goodies, local shops are stocked and selling something for every sweet tooth.
A personal touch
Danville Chocolates is decked out for the holiday. Moore said they have been preparing since Christmas to get ready.
The locally owned confectioner features hand-dipped fruit, their signature caramel apples, and a wide selection of festively packaged chocolates.
Much of the chocolate they sell is handcrafted in the shop daily. “We make it as we sell it,” said Moore. She says that customers particularly like that they never add paraffins or wax to their chocolates.
This year, Moore said the hot trend in the shop is sweet and salty pairings, and they added additional sea salt items to meet the increased demand.
Customers who want something uniquely local can try the dark chocolate port truffle. The truffle uses port wine, developed in a partnership with the local winery that recently opened a tasting room on Hartz Avenue.
Also new this year is a special white chocolate raspberry bark that will be available in individual heart shaped pieces by special order.
Customers shopping on Wednesday afternoon were placing special orders for personalized items. “Special orders are a huge part of our business,” said Moore. “Customers love that we are able to add that personal touch—it’s not just off the shelf, it’s made for them.”
Moore recalls a particularly memorable special order she made for a young middle-school-aged girl: a Justin Bieber caramel apple.
It was a huge hit with the young fan, she recalled: “I think it was the most excited someone has ever been when they have gotten chocolate.”
If you are more of a last minute Joe, you'll be in good company on Valentine’s Day. Moore laughingly acknowledges that they “see a lot of men last minute.”
This year the store plans to offer a little extra to these customers, and will also have flowers available on the holiday itself, making it a “one-stop shop.”
Kitschy and fun
If it's cute and kitsch you seek, nearby candy shop on Hartz Avenue is packed with an explosion of pink, white and red candy for Valentine’s Day, in addition to its usual full selection. The shop carries a cornucopia of candy from Jelly Bellies jellybeans to nostalgic brand candies.
Shop clerk, Jessica Weiss, said that so far this year many kids are coming in to buy gifts for their friends in advance of the holiday.
A really popular seller this year, she said, is the heart-shaped Peeps. They aren't just for Easter anymore.
So pretty you don’t want to eat them, but do!
Berkeley based, Chocolalier Blue opened two months ago in , and the new sweet spot is sure to become a favorite.
The shop sells artisanal chocolates that are as amazing to look at, as they are to taste. Each piece has an almost an architectural quality.
“People often say they look like jewels,” said the shop’s manager Angela Gioukaris.
As new customers discover them, Gioukaris says she especially enjoys the reactions of the children that visit the shop. They can’t help but try and sneak a piece of the eye-catching candy, she says.
The chocolate is meticulously hand crafted at the company’s flagship store in Berkeley, using French and Italian molds, and overseen by chef and owner Chris Blue who combines his passion for chocolate and organic agriculture in his innovative confections.
Customers can choose selections that change with the seasons.
For Valentine’s Day customers can pick up items like “French toast,” “Éclair,” heart-shaped “Mimosa,” and “Better Than Sex Cake,” plus many more.
When asked about a memorable customer, Gioukaris shared the reactions of two seasoned ladies who wandered into the shop recently. Their ringing endorsement would be a little too hot to print, so you will have to go and experience it for yourself.
Still, old standbys given in families for generations still tug the nostalgic heartstrings of some locals.
Many said they would pick up a box from a local Sees Candies store, including the temporary holiday store on Railroad Avenue, near Trader Joe's.
Where will you buy your Valentine's chocolate? What are your favorite types?