Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Chocolate Makers Ready for Valentine's Rush

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Chocolate Makers Ready for Valentine's Rush

Article excerpt

Byline: Gregory Richards, Times-Union business writer

For many, love comes in the form of chocolate on Valentine's Day. And that means local chocolate shops are gearing up for their busiest time of the year.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier, which has nine locations in Northeast Florida, expects to sell 10 to 15 tons of chocolate this week and gross 25 percent of its sales. Most of those sales will happen on the big day itself, said Peterbrooke founder and owner Phyllis Lockwood Geiger. But since the holiday falls on a Friday this year, she expects some sales to be spread out over this week.

Valentine's Day means long hours for her and her staff, because the chocolate concoctions have to be made fresh. Her employees will arrive about 3 a.m. Friday at the San Marco production facility and the stores to begin making top-sellers like chocolate-covered popcorn, solid chocolate roses and chocolate-covered strawberries. "After 20 years, it's like OK, this is what we do," Geiger said. "We know our feet are going to be barking by the end of the day."

While newer to the chocolate business, the 2-year-old 3 Sisters' Chocolate Co. at San Jose Boulevard and Crown Point Road in Mandarin already has Cupid's holiday down pat. Co-owner Beverly Brinn said among her Valentine's specialties are Becca Bars, which are slabs of homemade caramel mixed with popcorn, covered with chocolate and cut in heart shapes (Becca comes from Brinn's 9-year-old niece). A somewhat healthier treat are chocolate-covered strawberries. Brinn says hers are different from all the rest because she dips the strawberries completely in chocolate. "It creates a casing that really makes the berry juicy and delicious," she said.

Whetstone Chocolates in St. Augustine, which wholesales much of its chocolates to stores like Bed Bath & Beyond and Kroger, has already made much of its Valentine's Day chocolates, said president Virginia Whetstone. To reach stores in time, Valentine's Day chocolates like foil-wrapped hearts need to ship by December, she said. Right now, her company is just wrapping up its Easter shipments.

Besides its wholesale operations, Whetstone Chocolates also sells its goodies in two stores in downtown St. …

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