Entrepreneurs / Small Business  February 3, 2021

Even in a pandemic, ‘you can’t stop love’

For 75 years, heart-embellished greeting cards have been sent in February through the Loveland post office as part of its famed remailing program. Each year’s “cachet” or postmark boasts a different verse. The one selected for 2021 is:

Let’s unite our hearts

This Valentine’s Day.

Our Sweetheart City

Will lead the way.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 and its requirement for social distancing have created some challenges for romantic gestures, often suggesting a different rhyme:

I know you love me,

And I hate to ask,

But when we go out,

Please wear your mask!

Whether it’s fragrant bouquets, romantic dinners or nights away, love in the pandemic era has taken on some different looks — both for couples and the businesses that traditionally meet their Valentine’s Day-related desires.

Flowers are a must, and a business such as Longmont Florist has been meeting the need for 51 years — albeit this year with some virus-related variations.

“We’ve been very busy during the pandemic, our staff’s been great and we’re following the protocols all the way,” said co-owner Brad Golter. “We’ve had to do all the internal spacing and distancing with the mask wearing and all, but the fact that our website was up and running and is working well helps,” Golter said. “All our deliveries to residences are no contact. We get to the residence and knock or ring the doorbell, our driver backs away, and then we call the recipient to let them know the flowers are there and waiting for them.

“We are going to be forcing all will-calls to be outside,” he said. “They can call us a few days ahead or come to our door and we can bring the flowers out to them.”

The pandemic has affected Golter’s staffing and sourcing as well, he said.

“We’ve had people who have needed to stay home, or we’ve told them to stay home, so from a staffing standpoint it’s been a challenge in that area, but our staff’s been great about it,” Golter said. “They’ve worked really hard to stay safe, to keep everybody in the building safe, to keep our customers safe. We’ve had to shut down our storefront a couple of different times, and then we would help people outside the front door.”

Longmont Florist deals directly with rose farms in Ecuador, which had disruptions at their facilities and in their growing process because of the virus, Golter said.

“The farms kind of shut down some of their production in South America so there was a blip in production of the product and the logistics of getting it on the airplane,” he said. “Those challenges haven’t gone away entirely, but we’re planning and trying to buy ahead.”

Supply and logistics have caused increases in wholesale prices, “but we raise our retail prices for roses only,” he said. “The whole flower industry has been busy, but the demand for the product is high.”

Demand for romantic expressions on Valentine’s Day isn’t limited to flowers, Golter said. “We can bring Robin chocolates or stuffed animals,” he said. “Succulents, orchids, are hugely popular, as are dish gardens that we make up ourselves, and European baskets that are a combination of blooming plants and green plants.

“It’s on a Sunday this year, so people might spread it out — flowers one day, chocolates another, dinner another.”

Some nontraditional options to stay safe and healthy might include virtual experiences, such as in-home cooking classes from Boulder-based Food Lab. It’s offering kits that come complete with everything needed to make a perfect dinner at your own pace, as well as a video featuring a Food Lab chef who guides students through the meal’s courses.

Couples massages can be delivered as well, booked from providers such as Colorado Body Wisdom in Boulder. Its website boasts that “Mobile massage is the perfect way to bring the benefits of massage therapy to your doorstep. It reduces the hassle of travel, which in many circumstances creates additional, unnecessary complications.”

Treating your sweetheart to a shopping trip can be a way to get out of the house while giving a needed boost to the local economy. In Fort Collins, for instance, festive holiday lights will remain lit along 22 blocks of Old Town through Valentine’s Day, while the Foothills mall will host a “Buy Local For Your Love Market” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 13.

Boulder County Farmers Markets, which recently expanded its online sales to be offered year-round, is offering a set of seven fruit and vegetable valentines designed by its staff and available to order Feb. 2-11. They can be picked up curbside Feb. 7-14 in Boulder, Lafayette, Longmont and Denver.

The pun-padded valentines include: “You’re one in a Melon,” “I really a-Peach-ate you,” “I know it’s Corny, but you’re a-Maize-ing,” “here’s Mushroom in my heart for you,” “I love you from my head Tomatoes,” “My heart Beets for you” and “You’re a great human Bean.”

Locally sourced food offerings include Haystack Mountain Creamery and Breadworks, Croft Family Farms eggs, Buckner Family Ranch pork chops, beets from White Mountain Farm, Silver Canyon Coffee products and Rom-Com Red Velvet vegan ice cream, as well as the farmers market’s own stainless steel mugs, tote bags and “A Bite of Boulder” cookbook.

Hard-hit by pandemic-related restrictions, the area’s restaurants are gradually returning to indoor dining, albeit at 25% of capacity and with distancing and mask requirements. To support the businesses, the Colorado Restaurant Association has created the Dine Out to Help Out program, an extensive database that helps users find eatery deals such as outdoor dining, gift cards, catering, virtual classes, private events and special offerings.

That required spacing might actually add to the romantic aura at such fine-dining spots as Chimney Park in Windsor, new owner Aaron Wooten’s Greeley Chophouse, or Boulder staples Flagstaff House or Jill’s at the St Julien Hotel and Spa.

For those still uncomfortable with indoor dining, the Greenbriar Inn at the mouth of Lefthand Canyon north of Boulder is offering picnics that can be pre-ordered and either taken to a backyard or scenic outdoor spot or even enjoyed on the restaurant’s grounds.

For even more privacy, overnights at hotels and inns remain popular — again with COVID-related restrictions.

The Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield is offering a “Retreat to Romance” package that includes a bottle of sparkling wine, turndown service, a $100 cuisine and cocktail credit and late checkout. At Boulder’s St Julien, the “Romance Package” boasts a bottle of Veuve Clicquot along with chocolate-covered strawberries, and a daily credit of $150, which can be used either at Jill’s, the hotel’s spa, or for room service.

Located just outside Rocky Mountain National Park, McGregor Mountain Lodge in Estes Park is promoting a Valentine’s package that includes fresh flowers upon arrival, chocolates and complimentary snowshoes.

“Not much is different here,” said Lacy James, the lodge’s resident manager, adding that business actually may have picked up a bit over last Valentine’s Day because of the pandemic.

“A lot of people who have been displaced from cruises have been booking here,” she said. “People like the cabins because they’re more comfortable not sharing walls and having private kitchens.”

Down the hill at the iconic Stanley Hotel, which touts “proposal packages” starting at $1,000 as well as a number of venues in which to pop the question.

“Things have certainly changed from last year,” noted owner John Cullen. “We’re still at 25% capacity with Level Orange, so we’re still being cautious on everything. Bookings have to be down, but my bet is it’s still darned close.”

Cullen said the hotel had to cancel its traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. “We put the kibosh on those types of functions, because it was safer and better to do it separate,” he said. “We delivered 60 or 70 full turkey dinners to condo units, though, and that was really successful.

“We already have 30 couples who have booked rooms and are having romantic getaways” over the Valentine’s Day weekend, he said. “One couple is doing a surprise meal and engagement thing in a condo; ‘Oh, gee, honey, it’s not the chef — it’s the guy bringing the ring!’

“So there still is love in this time of social distancing,” Cullen said. “You can’t stop love.”

For 75 years, heart-embellished greeting cards have been sent in February through the Loveland post office as part of its famed remailing program. Each year’s “cachet” or postmark boasts a different verse. The one selected for 2021 is:

Let’s unite our hearts

This Valentine’s Day.

Our Sweetheart City

Will lead the way.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 and its requirement for social distancing have created some challenges for romantic gestures, often suggesting a different rhyme:

I know you love me,

And I hate to ask,

But when we go out,

Please wear…

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