Janda Florist downtown, decorated for Valentine's Day,… (Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina…)
During a typical week before Valentine's Day, the door at Larry McGlinchey's chocolate shop in Timonium rarely has a chance to close because another customer is always bustling in.
On Thursday, however, McGlinchey trudged from his home a few streets over, dug his street signs out from 6-foot snowdrifts and waited forlornly as the door to Cacao Lorenzo remained barely touched. As a purveyor of handcrafted French chocolate, McGlinchey counts on Valentine's Day to be one of the four pillars of his business year.
"But people are thinking about digging out or getting to the supermarket; they're not thinking, 'Gee, let's go get some chocolate,' " he said. "We're getting killed. You have to laugh about it to keep from crying."
Anxiety rippled through chocolatiers, florists and restaurant managers on Thursday as Baltimoreans dug out from a second snowstorm in five days. Valentine's Day is essential to the candy, flower and food industries, and it remained unclear how much business would be lost to the snow. Retailers were left to hope that after days of being stuck, customers would burst forth on the weekend, ready to spend big on their sweethearts.
"It better be mayhem in here on Friday and Saturday," McGlinchey said. "If mayhem doesn't hit, we're in trouble."
There would be no way to make up for severely depressed Valentine's business, he said. McGlinchey uses no preservatives in his chocolate, and any confections left unpurchased after three weeks go in the trash. In that light, the "Happy Valentine's Day" sign outside seemed a cruel joke.
"I need a new sign," McGlinchey quipped. " 'Grieving chocolatier: needs help.' "
The outlook was a little brighter at Rutland Beard Florist in Ruxton, where owner Rutland Paal said his delivery crew of 20 would do its best to distribute more than 1,000 orders Saturday and Sunday.
"The delivery is the biggest concern for us," Paal said. "We're here working, and we have enough flowers. But some of the roads are so impassable that deliveries could take two or three times as long on a day when we're already pushed to the max."
Some customers might receive calls saying delivery is impossible, but Paal predicted that they would be understanding. He has sold flowers for 35 years and said Valentine's Day always produces immense anxiety.
"It's such a huge holiday for us, and it falls at absolutely the worst time weatherwise," he said.
Paal has endured an ice storm on Valentine's morning and numerous iffy forecasts, but never anything quite like the twin storms of 2010. Nonetheless, he seemed unconcerned that customers would use the snow as an excuse to not recognize Valentine's Day.
"It's a very emotional holiday," he explained. "It's hard not to acknowledge it."
In the realm of difficult deliveries, the U.S. Postal Service is also enduring its share. Valentine's Day produces the second-largest mail volume of the year, said USPS spokeswoman Yvette Singh. Slick driveways and snow-buried mailboxes are making it harder than usual to get those bright red cards to loved ones.
"We're hoping to get everything out," Singh said. "The mail was still moving all week, but it's hard to say what the transportation situation was in every area. We're planning to make all deliveries."
Cards mailed last week or on Monday should arrive by Saturday, she said, adding that customers need to help by clearing walkways and digging out mailboxes.
Compared with the other businesses dependent on Valentine's Day, restaurant owners sounded eager for Saturday and Sunday. Many closed last weekend and on Wednesday, so they hope that holiday cash will offset those losses.
"At this point, we're heavily booked with no cancellations," said Eric Losin, a partner in the Kali's Restaurant Group that owns four eateries in Fells Point. "I'm sure we'll have a few people who can't make it, but I think people just want to get out of the house at this point."
Losin had to interrupt a 10-minute chat three times to take reservation calls for the weekend. His restaurants rely heavily on fresh fish, and he said deliveries are on track for today, Saturday and Sunday.
"This holiday weekend couldn't come at a better time for us," Losin said.
Cancellations were more of a problem for Talbot 208, a restaurant in St. Michaels that relies on customers from Baltimore and Washington to make the long drive to the Eastern Shore for special occasions. Manager Nick Fox was only partway through his confirmation list for Saturday, and already, 20 of 88 reservations had been canceled.
"People are telling us they just can't get out," he said. "This is a huge weekend for us, and the weather is definitely a problem."
Fox hoped to fill the empty tables by reaching out to local customers.