“It’s a Hallmark Holiday!” This is usually said with a scowl by people who dismiss Valentine’s Day. I have to admit: Over the years, I have gone back and forth on Valentine’s Day. It probably wasn’t until I started seeing people get engaged in the bookstore around Valentine’s that I “got it.” It’s partly a time set aside as a reminder to tell people how important they are to you. It can be easy to start to take your life partner for granted. In theory, everyday we should take time out to do something special and honor the one who makes our life worthwhile. Life gets in the way, so this reminder shows up in the middle of winter to shine a little light.
Our friends Mike and Stephanie Adams don’t send Christmas cards; instead they send Valentine’s Day cards to their friends. It’s really lovely to open the mail and find a missive of care from two lovely people. Last year I talked about things I love about our area, but this year it seems time to explore Live Local ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day in support of our local economy. Without further ado, here are some suggestions for Live Local spending come February 14:
1. Flowers are one of the standards. There are at least 18 locally owned florists in the area, and Valentine’s Day is one of the events they count on for keeping things together. If you are thinking flowers but are frightened by the price tag of a dozen roses or a bouquet, it doesn’t need to be that elaborate. A single long-stemmed rose can be just as romantic (sometimes even more so). Just order locally (Julia’s, Verzaal’s).
2. Dinner out at a nice restaurant is another staple. I remember walking home up Princess Street last year and encountering the familiar sight of Billy Melon, owner of Manna, sitting on his stoop making calls and awaiting deliveries for the restaurant.
“Hey Billy, how are things?” I greeted him.
“Getting better. It’s Valentine’s week,” he answered.
“Oh yeah, that’s probably pretty big for you guys…”
He nodded confirmation and I continued my walk, while reflecting that in the dead of winter, before the tourist season starts, that’s probably a much-needed bridge for a restaurant. For the nice restaurants, especially since Valentine’s is on a weekend this year, advance reservations are key. If the place you want it booked, inquire as to the possibility of a takeout order. Then have a romantic picnic at home or in a favorite spot that’s special to you both.
3. Planning to go out? Movie, concert, theatre? There is a lot of theatre onstage every weekend here, but people who never go to the theatre make an effort for Valentine’s. Consequently, some of the more savvy producers in town make a point to have a show up that weekend. Thalian Association has “Ring of Fire” on the Main Stage of Thalian Hall (one of the most lovely venues in the state). The music of Johnny Cash and that of his wife, June, could be a great exploration come Saturday night. Big Dawg really got into the season with a very funny romantic comedy about a family staging a “Gone with the Wind” themed wedding. City Stage Co. has “Triassic Park the Musical” (they have a full bar at the theatre, which is a nice draw). TheatreNOW is doing a special show and Valentine’s dinner of the funny, heart-rendering “Love Happens.”
On the February 14, UNCW Presents will host Irvin Mayfield & NOJO at Kenan Auditorium. We are so fortunate to have such an amazing arts scene here with live music, theatre and film constantly pulsing throughout town. What better way to show our love and appreciation for it than investing in a special night with such talented folks.
4. What about something a little different? Ted’s Fun on the River has canoe rental for a river adventure together. Or for a more climate-controlled outing, the Henrietta III Riverboat Tour is a pretty romantic journey.
Want some privacy? How about a chartered tour all of your own? There are dozens of charter boat captains in the area who would be thrilled to take you out for a romantic tour to watch the sunset on the Valentine’s Day (Wilmington Water Tours, Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours, perhaps?). We are blessed with these beautiful beaches and magnificent river that people travel from all over the country to enjoy.
5. In 2014 Americans spent $18.6 billion on Valentine’s Day, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s a pretty remarkable mid-winter economic infusion. Personally, I would like to see a chunk of that money spent here on locally, handmade jewelry rather than online for something impersonal. Edge of Urge, Half United, Jonkheer Jewlery Art Studio, Spectrum Art Gallery, and Port City Pottery and Fine crafts (the co-operative gallery in the Cotton Exchange) all have beautiful hand-made items by local artists that truly bring something special to the occasion.
Looking for unique cards? Try Occasions in the Cotton Exchange or Planet. Actually, one of my favorite things to do is to take $20 and buy a bag full of whatever weird, offbeat, quirky games and gimmicks Planet has out on the front table. Jock and I love spending a ridiculous and silly evening playing with the stickers and kitsch. It’s purely ridiculous but should not be underestimated for the value that having fun with your mate has in your life together.
But back to that $18.6 billion. The same report has the average American spending over $100 on Valentine’s. We have a population of over 100,000. If even 50,000 people spent $100 at local businesses on Valentine-related expenditures, that would equal $5 million spent with small businesses in our area next week. I can’t be alone in believing that an injection like that at this time of year would mean a lot to many businesses in the area. For restaurants, it could mean the difference between keeping servers or cutting back. For retailers and florists it’s the difference between keeping the doors open or not.
So what are Jock and I going to do? Well, you probably know by now he’s not great at remembering holidays or getting them right. What I am hinting for this Valentine’s Day is to spend Saturday afternoon installing the bumpers for our ’65 VW Bug and then have a take-out picnic from a restaurant (of Jock’s choice) in the front seat while watching the sunset over the river. For us, time spent together working on that project is bringing us closer. Having the opportunity to sit down and watch a sunset in each other’s company is a rare but special treat. Maybe, he might manage to pull off some flowers this year.
Regardless, what Valentine’s Day reminds me to do is pause and tell Jock, and countless people in my life how much I love them and how grateful I am for them.
Thank you to all of you: I love you.