Valentine’s Day brings its own set of headaches for local candy stores

Valentine’s Day may be a frilly holiday about love and flowers, but for some locals, it means big business.

Brenda Tusing and Terry Restin are co-owners of The Royal Chocolate in Virginia Beach’s Town Center, where they’ve operated for 12 years. Valentine’s Day sales represent a double-edged sword — an opportunity, but a stressful one

“Valentines day really does impact our business in the very big way, but in a short period of time,” Tusing said. “And it’s fun.”

The holiday generates approximately 8 to 10 percent of The Royal Chocolate’s annual revenue — in 2018, employees dipped 2,000 strawberries in the days leading up to Valentine’s.

“That’s huge business for us,” Tusing said. “We count on Vday to really see us through Mother’s Day and Easter. Once summer comes around, chocolate sales drop off” because the heat makes shipping and storage difficult.

Tusing uses “high-end” Belgian chocolate as the base for the products they make at The Royal Chocolate. Learning how to prepare and properly handle the chocolate takes time.

“We have a pretty big staff already, and we don’t hire seasonally because there’s so much training needed that we would run out of time,” Tusing said.

Although seasonal workers are not necessary, there’s still a lot that goes into planning for the rush.

“Right after Christmas, we start looking into it, coming up with our product line, fondue seating packages, email campaigns” Tusing said. “There’s a lot of ‘reminding people that we’re here’ and staying ‘top of mind’ with customers. It can really put you on edge.”

Related story: Virginia Beach made a list of top 20 places to spend Valentine’s Day

Sourcing strawberries has been an issue this year for The Real Chocolate. Many of their sources were hit by fires and floods, and vendors aren’t getting the quantity or quality of strawberries they need.

Tusing’s strawberries typically come out of California and Florida, and “are pretty fragile and weather dependent.”

“So that’s been a real challenge,” Tusing said.

Other local confectioneries manufacture their own candies and ingredients locally.

Marty Cochran is president of Virginia Beach-based Forbes Candies Inc., which has been in business since 1930. Forbes manufactures everything, including its flagship saltwater taffy candies, so they don’t rely as much on remote vendors and “control the production based on demand,” Cochran said.

Still, Valentine’s Day is only the company’s third-most profitable holiday — right behind Easter and their top holiday, Christmas.

“There’s more corporate gift giving during Christmas, and it’s a longer season. More people give out gifts to multiple people,” Cochran said.

Still, Valentine’s Day represents an important bump in business for some of the Forbes Candies stores.

“We have four stores in The Outer Banks, three at Oceanfront in Virginia Beach, one in hilltop, and one in Norfolk Premium Outlets,” Cocharan said. “The outlets and Hilltop are more geared towards Valentine’s Day sales; as you can imagine, there aren’t many people at the Oceanfront right now.”

“It is a difficult holiday to prepare for because it’s so last minute,” Cochran said. “The majority of our customers are men, and if they’re anything like me, you wait to until the day before.”

Biggest seller is heart shaped chocolate boxes, of which they sell “hundreds,” Cochran said. “We try to do things differently than what you’ll find in the grocery store.”

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