MODESTO -- Funny, fluttery or flattering, valentines each year faithfully stir cash-register ka-chings along with heartbeat thu-thumps. This year, holiday sales seem to be giving local businesses a little love.
Downtown eateries report that bookings are up for romantic dinners tonight, and florists say everything's coming up roses.
Business is up 25 percent this holiday at Fuzio Universal Bistro, General Manager Thomas Lopes said. Prime Valentine's Day dining hours already are booked. The nearby Presidents Day weekend will spread the love, he added. "Valentine weekend will be pretty huge," he predicted.
On J Street, Galletto Ristorante seatings booked up last week noticeably sooner than usual, said Operations Manager Jose De Leon. For $85, diners will sup tonight on a five-course meal, planned months in advance from the first bite of smoked salmon amuse to the last creamy swallow of post-dessert truffle.
Roughly 300 dinners will fly out of the Galletto kitchen tonight, he said.
"Mother's Day is a bigger day than Valentine's Day, but it's stretched over the entire day, where this is three to four hours of fast and frenzied," De Leon said.
Down the street, Deva's will host live music for the evening, with Lovecore Singing Telegrams and the Celtic band Caliban. Cover charge is $15, said Jamie Loftis.
Spillover from theater
At Loard's Ice Cream & Sandwich Shop across from Brenden Theatres, General Manager Dina Rivera hopes three major movie releases today will keep the sweets flowing. Those seeing Bruce Willis in "A Good Day to Die Hard" just might think it's a good day to try bright purple sweet potato ice cream or enjoy two-for-one Valentine's Day milkshakes.
"(Business) is picking up and I'm hoping it gets better," Rivera said.
At Janet's Flowers, the pink and red blitz has a bit more green in it this year "I'm seeing a positive trend," Jennifer Rushman said. The holiday falling on a Thursday helps, she added, with office deliveries selling well.
Retro looks and roses are this year's hot items, she said. In Janet's wedding chapel turned overflow storage room, helium balloons proclaimed the day amid masses of roses, baby's breath and greenery.
At Modesto high schools, floral arrangers were running full tilt as well. Budding romances and BFFs will be tapped today for fund-raisers and experience for floral design classes and choral groups.
At Johansen High, Meghan Davis' floral- design class spent Monday arranging carnations and helium balloons in bright-red Coke cans weighted with sand. At $8 a pop, so to speak, buyers can give a sweet to a sweet and contribute to a field trip to the San Francisco flower mart for the class.
Many in the class said they were making the arrangements for their parents, friends and sweethearts. Davis said it was an economical gift, given that the price she pays for simple carnations jumped from $10 a bundle to $14 for the holiday. "There's a huge mark-up on the holiday," she noted.
School fund-raisers are counting on that very thing.
At Downey High, students will provide a Valentine's singing telegram, including a live performance, card, candy and a rose, or a holiday floral arrangement made by their ag floral design class and club, said Principal Richard Baum.
Hershey's Kisses roses and balloons were sold by Beyer's floral-design class, Principal Dan Park said.
Davis' floral class wrapped roses and sold them at lunch Wednesday as a fund-raiser for the FFA, Principal Lynn Lysko said.
Enochs floral-design teacher Katy Cardoza had her classes sell arrangements and balloons to experience Valentine's Day as a flower shop. "What little profit there is goes toward class expenses for other projects," she said.
The Modesto High choir club will be belting out singing telegrams as a Valentine's Day fund-raiser, Principal Jason Manning said.
The slowly recovering economy is still putting a damper on the holiday, with 55 percent of consumers in a PriceGrabber survey saying it has affected how much they spend on their sweeties.
The National Retail Federation predicts Americans will shell out an average of $130.97 for Valentine's Day in 2013, up from $126.03 last year. Total spending will reach $18.6 billion.
Bee staff writer Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (209) 578-2339, or on Twitter @NanAustin.
PG&E URGES CAUTION
While love is in the air today, electric utilities hope helium-filled metallic balloons will stay grounded. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is urging that balloons be securely weighted to prevent escapees from floating into overhead power lines, where a $20 arrangement can cause thousands of dollars in damage.
Last year, metallic balloons drifting into PG&E power lines in this area caused about 25 failures affecting more than 9,600 customers in Amador, Calaveras, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, the utility's Stockton office reports.
The company warns the lovelorn to leave alone any balloons or kites caught in a power line and call PG&E at (800) 743-5000.