By Steve Jones
6:00 AM EST, February 13, 2013
January may be the bleakest month of the year, and February isn't much better.
But Valentine's Day sits right in the middle of February, much to the delight of Carroll County residents who have already endured many cold and gray winter days.
It's also one of the busiest times of the year for those who work with flowers and candy. While business seems to always be good for florists and confectioners, the three best times of the year are Christmas, Easter and Valentine's Day. While Valentine's Day sales rank third behind the other two holidays, customer demand can be even greater during the second week of February.
"That's the nature of this business," said Trevis Albin, who has owned and operated the Treat Shop and Chocolate Factory at the Town Mall of Westminster for 18 years.
"The period of Feb. 11th through the 14th is just a madhouse in here," he said last week. "I dip strawberries from the time the lights go on until I leave. We have a lot more orders for strawberry candies than in the past, and our truffles and chocolate-covered pretzels are the most popular for Valentine's Day."
This year, Albin had even less time to prepare for Valentine's Day.
During the Baltimore Ravens' march to the Super Bowl, his shop's business doubled as the team's success during the playoffs created an enormous demand for all things purple.
"I've gotten requests for purple fudge, purple pretzels, purple jelly beans and purple M&M's the past two weeks," said Albin, whose business also sells flowers, balloons and greeting cards. "We owe the Ravens: They certainly helped our business a lot."
Tom Howes, general manager of Hutchinson's Flowers, in Eldersburg, saw a similar uptick in late January.
"We did a lot of purple last week," Howes said. "And people wanted more orange because of the Orioles' success last fall."
And while Albin is now crafting the Treat Shop's delectables for Thursday, Howes is busy arranging flowers for the big day.
"We're busy at Christmas for about a month, and Easter and Mother's Day for a week," Howes said.
"But Valentine's Day is our busiest day of the year," he said. "On a normal day, we do between 30 and 40 deliveries. We do 10 times that volume on Valentine's Day"
Barb Larkin, the owner of the Chocolate Connection, in Finksburg, brings out her football lollipops at the beginning of every gridiron season.
The purple-and-black creations are very popular right now, along with the chocolate-dipped strawberries which have become a Valentine's Day staple.
"We sold six dozen of the Ravens' lollipops during the last two weeks," said Larkin, a retired technical writer who opened her one-person candy business 12 years ago.
"But the chocolate-dipped strawberries account for a lot of my Valentine's Day business," she said. "We've had customers ordering a dozen at a time, which suits me just fine."
While the increased business from the Ravens' unexpected Super Bowl victory will ebb, the lure of red roses on Valentine's Day will not.
"The red rose is the traditional flower of love," Howes said. "Roses are still the most popular flower on Valentine's Day, by far.
"We've done more arrangements with candy and balloons in addition to the flowers, but people still want the red roses," he said. "We've even put white lilies in the arrangements to enhance the color of the roses."
Even after Valentine's Day passes, most of the florists and confectioners in Carroll County can't come up for air.
The earliest Easter Sunday in years arrives March 30.
"I'll be making Easter bunnies by the end of this week," Albin said. "I've got my plane ticket for the day after Easter. That's when I can finally get out of here and get lost for a while."