Maryland merchants hope love — and sales — are in the air -- Gazette.Net


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Valentine’s Day falling on a Thursday this year means solid sales for some businesses, while others lament the loss of “a night-out” customers.

Gaylord National hotel at National Harbor in Oxon Hill sold out its $139 four-course Valentine’s Day special dinner at its Old Hickory Steakhouse two weeks ago, said spokeswoman Amie Gorrell. She said the special also will be available Friday and Saturday and is still taking reservations.

The hotel also sold out for several days in February and is offering all month a package that includes breakfast for two, 20 percent off spa services and self-parking. This coincides with the chocolate massages, strawberries and cream treatments Gaylord offers at its spa throughout the month.

“We’re seeing about the same room interest as last year, since we offer a similar package every year,” Gorrell said, but spa treatments have grown in popularity.

Valentine’s Day on a Thursday is particularly good for florists, as they have all week to prepare bouquets, said Ellen Brown, owner of Mason’s Flowers in Gaithersburg. It can head off “a huge rush” on Sunday, she said.

“So far, it looks like it’s going to be really good, exceeding our expectations,” Brown said Tuesday. Mason’s booked 150 deliveries for Wednesday and Friday.

Brown said she was hoping for a strong February to offset poor sales in January. Mason’s is offering deals on roses and other flowers to boost sales.

This month also has been busy for SPAGnVOLA Chocolatier, a shop and factory in Gaithersburg’s Kentlands community that makes and sells premium chocolates. The store sells chocolate bars, truffles, bonbons, coffee and other products, and has its own basement factory, plus a farm in the Dominican Republic, from where it imports organic cacao beans.

“We are seeing an overall increase in sales at this time,” said Eric A. Reid, president and founder. But December is typically its strongest month, followed by February.

Like many Maryland restaurants, the Daily Dish in Silver Spring is offering a special Valentine’s Day dinner. But unlike many restaurants, it also has something at its bar for those not so enamored of the holiday.

The “Anti-Valentine’s Day” menu includes cocktails such as a Bitter Betty Martini, made with Sloop Betty Vodka, which is an organic drink developed by Blackwater Distilling of Stevensville, plus dry vermouth, orange bitters and an orange peel. Dinner offerings include Blood Sausage, which comes with blood orange mustard sauce and a “very sharp knife,” stinky cheese and an anti-date plate of pickles with garlic cloves and onions.

The Daily Dish gets more “pro” than “anti” Valentine’s Day menu orders and requests, but customers have fun with the latter promotion, which is in its second year, a restaurant publicist said.

But some stores are anticipating a slower day than in previous years.

Bookings at ZBest Limousine Service in Glen Burnie have fallen 45 percent from last year, said reservation manager Gwen Meyer. The company has more than 35 vehicles, including limousines, sedans and executive suites.

“People want to go out when they don’t have to worry about anything the next day,” she said, attributing the bookings drop-off to a Thursday Valentine’s Day. ZBest is trying to balance this by offering specials through Friday and taking reservations around the clock, with deals for any budget, Meyer said.

For those seeking a less traditional celebration, Terrapin Adventures, an outdoor complex in Savage with a zipline, obstacle courses, tower and other features, is offering a special “Romantic Adventure” for the fourth year on Saturday and Sunday. For $85 per couple — a “significant” discount off standard rates, the company says — visitors can conquer their fears together during three hours of activities that can include the zipline, a “leap of faith,” which sends them 40 feet in the air, giant swing and tower. Hot chocolate, chocolate candy and the chance to win gifts from Savage Mill merchants are included.

About 80 people have signed up already, Matt Baker, the company’s chief adventure officer, said Wednesday, and more are expected. Last year, some 120 people participated, he said.

“In the past, we have sold out this event,” Baker said.

lrobbins@gazette.net

kshay@gazette.net