BRUCE MacKINNON CARTOON: March 26, 2020
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Tara Parsons-Donovan literally laughed out loud when asked if Valentine’s Day spiked interest in the custom baked goods her Not Just Cakes bakery has to offer.
At the moment of her spontaneous expression of happiness, she was about to put her daughter to work in the midst of a snow day away from school to allow everyone else under her employ to work the kitchen and fill countless orders for custom baked cakes, cookies, cupcakes and other sweet treats.
“It’s all hands on deck — friends, family and whoever wants to come out,” she said, still laughing. “No help will be turned away.”
Pre-orders closed on Wednesday morning and estimates were that business had tripled over the same February period in 2019. Although that year, her first at the Sydney River location, she was also quite busy.
“Last year, there was myself and one other staff member. This year, there is seven staff and we are working full hours. We are actually borrowing a kitchen (Wednesday) from our neighbours.”
People enjoy Valentine’s Day — which is one reason they are busy. Their custom baked goods also offer something a bit different to those in search of a Valentine’s Day offering.
“It’s a little more special than what you would get in a grocery store. Everything is made from scratch and it is all personalized to what you want. I think people looking for that extra something special, we would fill their needs.”
Though pre-orders closed Wednesday, there will be plenty of unique baked goods available for sale to walk-in customers today.
In the flower business, today will be the busiest day of the year as couples, romantics and would-be-wooers choose a bundle of flowers or a bouquet of roses to express their fondest feelings.
“Roses are the largest seller,” said David MacKillop, owner of MacKillop’s Flowers in Sydney River. “That’s the highest demand items, especially red roses because red means love.”
Though Valentine’s Day falls on Feb. 14 each and every year, ordering in advance isn’t an option most take advantage of and flower shops are usually filled with anxious purchasers on that special day.
“It just seems like they are just last-minute shoppers at that point. They are so busy and it’s hectic and then they think ‘oh, I can’t forget this.’”
MacKillop, 49, has been in the flower business since he was 16 and said it’s always been that way.
“Some do order a little bit ahead of time but the majority come in that day and, yeah, it’s pretty hectic.”
This wave of last second Valentine's Day shoppers has just become part of the flower business and all florists prepare as best they can.
“Most of it is just preparing the dishes and vases and having them prepared and then when they order them we hopefully have enough stock to fill all the orders. Or as much as we can and then if we sell out, we sell out.”
While Valentine’s Day is the single busiest day on a florist's calendar, it’s actually the days leading up to Mother’s Day that tends to be the busiest times of each year.
“Mother's Day is more spread out,” MacKillop said. “Mother's Day is probably the busiest but it is spread over a week, week and a half but I’d say Valentine’s for the one day would probably be the busiest and most hectic.”
Valentine’s Day is not just busy for flower and cake shops, it’s also when restaurants tend to be in the romance industry, as well, while catering to couples, perhaps over candlelight.
Josh de Leon has been in the restaurant industry for a long time and said Feb. 14 has become one of the busiest days of the year.
“When I was working at Canton (restaurant) it was crazy busy, not only for dine in but also for take out,” he said.
He now sees Valentine’s Day as one of the keys to success for the new eatery he’s opened with his friend Jaclyn Molto in North Sydney, known as D’Theatre Resto and Bar.
Specials have been drawn up to attract big Valentine’s crowds. He’s hoping those who join them for Feb. 14 meals will come back again and spur a very successful inaugural year for the new restaurant.
Just like the other businesses, reservations are recommended but they can cater to those on a last second schedule.