By Lauren Wanko
The phones won’t stop ringing at Jersey Shore Florist as dozens of roses are lined up for delivery and customers eagerly choose their favorite chocolates, or someone else’s favorite, at Third Avenue Chocolate Shoppe.
“It’s good crazy, it’s great crazy,” said Jersey Shore Florist owner Rick Donofrio. When asked how busy today is compared to other days, Donofrio said, “It’s busy. It’s the busiest couple days of the year.”
Donofrio expects to sell about 2,500 roses between today and tomorrow. He usually buys about 500 for the week from his wholesaler.
“Flower prices have stayed pretty steady in the last 20 years. But on Valentine’s Day, that’s the only time of year roses actually really go up. On Valentine’s Day. Then next week they’ll drop like a rock again,” he said.
Donofrio says roses typically double in price for Valentine’s Day.
“But I don’t double my rose prices, though. I can’t. But you make it up in the volume that you do,” he said.
Monmouth University’s Steve Pressman says Valentine’s Day spending doesn’t give the local economy a major boost.
“The estimates are that total spending for Valentine’s Day is a little bit less than $20 billion, which is one-tenth of 1 percent of our GDP and a lot of that goes to people further down the line, so it doesn’t just go to all the retail stores,” he said.
Then there’s the other Valentine’s Day staple — chocolate. At Third Avenue Chocolate Shoppe in Spring Lake, owner Matthew Magyar rolls up his sleeves to cover fresh strawberries in milk chocolate.
When asked if he was buying for somebody special for Valentine’s Day, customer Bill Mullen of Ortley Beach said, “Yes, she’s out in the car right now waiting. I have to surprise her but she’s given me a list!”
At Third Avenue Chocolate Shoppe, staffers begin prepping for Valentine’s Day about a week in advance. That includes everything from filling boxes with chocolates to making heart-shaped lollipops. The owner expects to sell 100 pounds of chocolate today, another 100 pounds tomorrow. That compares to the 10 pounds they typically sell any other day.
“Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s is my year,” Magyar said.
Pressman says chocolate’s main ingredient is getting pricey.
“Cocoa prices have gone up about 50 percent from a year ago. Three reasons. Two of them are basic economics, supply and demand,” he said.
There’s a growing demand for chocolate in Asia, says Pressman.
“The other thing is there have been problems in Africa. It’s weather and diseases that have affected the cocoa plants. So less supply, more demand, prices go up,” he said.
Ebola also impacted prices.
“People got scared and speculators started driving the price of cocoa beans up figuring that there may not be cocoa in the future,” Pressman said.
When asked how the prices are affecting him, Magyar said, “I mean my wholesale price goes up, so my retail price goes up a little bit. Nothing substantial this year over any other year.”
But even if there wasn’t a sweet deal, Magyar insists customers would still open their wallets.
“It’s Valentine’s Day. The pressure’s on. You better come through with something,” he said.