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Advice on gifts for your valentine
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Staff Writer
Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel 02/08/2010


Staff Writer

Valentine's Day is Sunday, and nobody wants to send or receive stale chocolates or dead flowers on the special holiday.

Area chocolatiers and florists certainly don't want that either, so they're offering tips on what to look for when ordering flowers and buying chocolate.

"Just beware," says Bill Sheehan, president of the Maine State Florists & Growers Association. "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Sheehan was referring to what can happen when people order flowers online.

They may face hidden costs, unknowingly send flowers of poorer quality or lesser quantity than expected -- and the delivery companies may drop them off on a doorstep in 20-degree weather if the recipient is not home.

"People do not realize what they're getting when they order online," Sheehan said.

Sheehan, whose association represents more than 200 florists statewide, says he tried an experiment in which he ordered flowers online and checked to see what actually was delivered on people's doorsteps.

"The flowers were dead, the container was frozen and the box was crushed," he said.

Lisa Lagrange, who owns KMD Florist in Waterville with her husband, David, echoed Sheehan's sentiments. She suggests people buy locally, while acknowledging people may hear that refrain often.

"I think that's been such a common cry from every local business there is that people don't listen to it anymore," she said. "But there really are some facts underlying the situation that really makes it worthwhile to buy local."

Lagrange cites an advertisement from a telephone book that appears to be from a local company but is not, and promises a dozen red roses for $29.99. By the time fees and service charges are added, one could end up paying $89.99, she said.

"The general public has no clue about how it all works," she said.

Trusting your florist, knowing what the person you are going to send flowers to likes and ordering early are important in getting what you want, at the price you want, florists seem to agree.

Larry Charrier, who co-owns Skowhegan Fleuriste with Duane Burbank, says people associate Valentine's Day with red roses, but people also are buying a lot of tulips for the holiday.

"Some people want that touch of spring," Charrier said.

Charrier expects that Friday will be the biggest day for his downtown shop, as Valentine's Day lands on Sunday this year and many deliveries will be made to people's workplaces, or to schools.

Skowhegan Fleuriste wraps all of its flowers and Charrier urges people who receive them at work or school to wrap them again before they take them home, as cold weather will kill them.

A call placed to, an online florist ordering company advertised in the local Yellow Pages, went to a call center in Haymarket, Va. A recording offers several options to the caller, including customer service, where a man who answered referred questions to Bryan Mayer, vice president of human resources. Mayer did not return a call placed to his voicemail Friday.

A woman at the Better Business Bureau of Maine who could talk about the issue was not in the office Friday.

Chocolatiers in Waterville and Augusta offered tips for buying Valentine's Day treats, also suggesting patronizing smaller shops, as some larger stores have chocolate that could be a year or more old.

Wanda Theobald, who owns Maynard's Chocolates in the Hathaway Creative Center in Waterville with her husband, Charles, suggested people buy now to make sure they get what they want.

"Chocolate does last a little bit, as long as you care for it," Theobald said. "It can't be placed in extreme heat or extreme cold."

Maynard's, where customers may view the chocolate-making process, offers everything from a chocolate box with a lip cover with hugs and kisses inside to chocolate boxes with roses on top and mini-roses inside.

"We have chocolate roses, chocolate roses in a chocolate vase -- it's all one piece -- we have edible teddy bear boxes," she said.

Jennifer Dumond and her husband, Andy, own Kennebec Chocolates in both Augusta and Waterville. The shop features heart-shaped chocolate and lollipops, chocolate lips, and all sorts of other treats for Valentine's Day.

Jennifer Dumond said some chocolates actually are better if they are not too fresh, such as those with cream or other soft centers.

"Chocolate-covered cherries really do need to go a week or two (after making them) to taste their best," she said.

Amy Calder -- 861-9247