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Valentine’s Day business has rosy outlook

Community: Retailers share their insight on popular gifts, see increase in sales from last year

Posted: February 14, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 14, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Claire Cullen Middleton, left, owner of the Valencia store, works on an arrangement called the “Wow Factor” while Franchino works in the background.

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Red roses and dark chocolate remain the valentines of choice for lovers in Santa Clarita Valley.

According to two local authorities on the subject of flowers and sweets, nothing says “I love you” or “Happy Valentine’s Day” as do a box of dark chocolates — not white, not milk chocolate — or a dozen long-stem red roses — not skinny stem, not short, not white but sometimes pink.

At Claire’s Flowers, tucked inside a shady stretch of Santa Clarita Road, where two girls share a porch swing across the street, co-owner Claire Cullen Middleton and her two arrangers are tweaking leaves and plucking errant petals from a bumper crop of Valentine’s Day orders.

In the center of their enterprise stands what is quite possibly the flagship of all floral arrangements.

In it, vibrant orchids — two types — climb through the arrangement’s center against a flourish of fanning paddle-sized black tea leaves with wispy, elegant branches reaching from the sides. 

She calls the creation the “Wow Factor.”

At the heart of the $200 “Wow Factor” is, of course, a cluster of red roses.

“They like their red roses,” said Cullen Middleton, who runs Claire’s Flowers with her husband, Michael. “But with us, they’ll allow us to put some flare into it, which is what we call it — flare.

“So this man is getting his red roses but here’s what we’ve added.”

Cullen Middleton rattled off a long list of Latin names for exotic “Wow Factor” elements.

Valentine’s Day flower sales at Claire’s Flowers are up by about 15 percent over last year, she said.

And at the heart of that revenue — as undeniable as the heart of the “Wow Factor” arrangement — are red roses.

Having Valentine’s Day fall this year at the start of the workweek also helps.

“This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Monday and most people want the flowers to go to the workplace whereas last year when it fell on a Sunday, people just went away for the weekend.

“This year, however, they said ‘No no. We can’t send it to the house; we have to send it to the work so that everybody can see it,’” she said.

Although Claire’s Flowers specializes in putting together unique arrangements, almost all of the orders prepared and sitting on her workbench contained red roses.

How important are red roses to Valentine’s Day?

Cullen Middleton taps the glass of her climate-controlled flower enclosure.

“I’ve got one, two, three, four,” she said, moving to spot other red rose clusters. “Five, six different types of red roses. Each one is going to react differently when it opens. I buy them from six different countries.”

For guys taking notes, size matters.

Long-stem roses have stems between 60 and 80 centimeters, she said, or between 24 to 36 inches.

Over at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in the heart of Westfield Valencia Town Center on Town Center Drive, manager Beth Sweezer is giving red roses a run for their money with unique chocolates — or more to the point, the old standard done up in new and exciting ways.

Her top sellers, she said, are the iconic box of dark chocolates in a velvet heart-shaped box and chocolate-dipped strawberries.

The bottom line behind the success of both, she says, is dark chocolate.

“The chocolate-dipped strawberries are hugely popular right now,” she said.

More than 300 orders of chocolate-dipped strawberries were placed at her shop for this Valentine’s Day, she said.

Also popular are chocolate roses — the best of both traditional worlds.

“It’s a chocolate rosebud where we shape the chocolate like a rosebud,” Sweezer explained.

“Dark chocolate has a long history steeped in folklore,” she said. “It has long been thought to be an aphrodisiac, like oysters.

“Milk chocolate is popular among people who like sweets and white chocolate, not as popular.”

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