Heart of the matter

<p>Denis Wilkin of Naperville, along with his daughter Molly (16), buying Valentines Day chocolates for their significant others at <a id=Naper Nuts and Sweets in Naperville in 2011.  Naper Nuts and Sweets is one of many local businesses expecting a boost in business from Valentine's Day.  |  Terence Guider-Shaw/For Sun-Times Media  

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Denis Wilkin of Naperville, along with his daughter Molly (16), buying Valentines Day chocolates for their significant others at Naper Nuts and Sweets in Naperville in 2011.  Naper Nuts and Sweets is one of many local businesses expecting a boost in business from Valentine's Day.  |  Terence Guider-Shaw/For Sun-Times Media  

Valentine’s Day may mean flowers, dinner, a sentimental card or a special date night for married couples or those still playing the dating game.

But it’s also an opportunity for Naperville businesses to shake themselves out of the winter doldrums and get those cash registers ringing again, following the post-Christmas lull.

Dave Weeks, president and CEO of the Weeks Financial Group here in Naperville, has worked the past four years to make sure Valentine’s Day shopping is convenient for folks here in Naperville and also that local businesses reap the benefits.

On Thursday, Weeks and others helped organize the fourth annual Cress Creek Country Club “Men’s Night” which included a one-stop shopping experience with local vendors.

“I have to think Valentine’s Day has to add a boost to the local economy, especially during a year like this when you have it on a Friday and the restaurants, which are busy anyway, are going to be packed,” Weeks said. “I can tell you that most of my clients are going to be buying things for Valentine’s Day. Women are the biggest shoppers and they buy for their husband, kids, their mothers and more.”

Weeks said while organizing vendors for this year’s Men’s Night event, a number of jewelers turned him down claiming they were too busy to attend.

“They were telling us this is one of their busiest times of the year and that they couldn’t participate,” Weeks said.

Larry Yaseen of Harry W. Yaseen Jewelers in Naperville said Valentine’s Day does bring a blip in business, but that it is also affected by other factors.

“I think you start to see a few more people as spring is coming and there’s a certain optimism about that, plus people start thinking about getting engaged and things like that,” Yaseen said. “It depends who comes through the door. I’m 65, and during my parents’ time, Valentine’s Day was a really big deal. Now with the generational change, people seem more likely to buy a card and maybe go out to dinner.”

Restaurants like Catch 35 in Naperville are expecting to be bursting at the seams. Manager John Fiorenzo says bookings for next Friday’s Valentine’s Day dinner began about a month ago.

“Right now, I wouldn’t say reservations are closed, but we’re looking at double the amount we normally have on a Friday night,” Fiorenzo said. “We’re actually going to open at 4 p.m. that day instead of 5 p.m. And we also think that there’s going to be an overflow Saturday night for the people who couldn’t get together to go out Friday after work or couldn’t get a reservation here for that night.”

Fiorenzo predicted that “restaurants probably get one of the bigger bumps in terms of Valentine’s Day business,” but Katie Wood, executive director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance, said retail merchants are likewise poised for some foot traffic.

“Downtown shops are eager to help customers find something special for their loved ones, and this difficult winter has kept many indoors,” Wood said. “Downtown shops look forward to seeing people come out in the spirit of love for each other and their town. Coinciding with the extended President’s Day holiday weekend, there are also many mid-season sales all weekend too as stores look to reduce winter inventory and welcome spring inventory.”

Becky Anderson of Anderson’s Bookshops admits the brutal winter “has not been good for anyone” retail-wise, but each Valentine’s Day brings a little uptick in sales when it arrives.

“We sell tons of cards and have displays with books that include romance novels as well as gift products,” she said. “People are looking for things that give them love and warmth. This isn’t as big as events later on like Mother’s Day or graduations, and I’d agree that restaurants make out probably better than those of us in retail.”

Naper Nuts and Sweets owner Dominique Martucci says that Valentine’s Day is among the top three holidays in terms of sales each year.

“It’s the shortest holiday season and only lasts a week, as people wait to buy the chocolate-dipped strawberries, which are our number one seller,” Martucci said. “Men are notorious for shopping at the last minute and we actually gear up and add staff three days before Valentine’s Day to get ready. Christmas is our best season followed by Easter, but Valentine’s Day is number three.”

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