Blue Valentine

Facing the enemy head on: florists and jewelers.

Nothing says “be mine” like a pair of $36,000 diamond earrings—especially if they're heart-shaped and weigh in at 4.5 karats. But hey, there is still time to run on over to Morgan’s Custom Jewelry in the Peninsula Center and snap them up for me. 

And you can purchase the Brooklyn Bridge while you’re at it.

I mentioned in a column last year that my two least favorite holidays are New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, the latter the worst of all. “All those florists delivering flowers,” I wrote at the time. 

For those of us unlikely to receive a dozen roses, much less a pair of $36,000 diamond earrings, the approach of Valentine’s Day is like watching termites crawl out of your woodwork.   

The lengths lovers go to

Rather than devising cute ways to bemoan my fate, I decided to face the enemy head on, seek them out: florists and jewelers. I would simply bite my tongue and listen to them rhapsodize over the lengths lovers go to woo each other with bouquets and precious gems. 

Florists were swamped, racing to flower markets for this biggest of holidays and designing arrangements that cater mainly to men, not one of whom seems to have my address or phone number.  

At Palos Verdes Florists on Hawthorne Boulevard, Shawn Nejad builds enticing arrangements that many males apparently are willing to shell out $100 to $250 and more for. 

“Guys shouldn't just think of a dozen red roses when it comes to Valentine's Day,” Nejad said. (Speak for yourself, buddy!) “They should think of beautiful arrangements,” he added.

Conceding he was a dozen-roses type until he got into the industry, Nejad said the flower shop trade has changed.

“You can go to Costco or any supermarket and get a dozen roses for $25,” said the Rancho Palos Verdes florist, who supplies both Terranea Resort and Marymount College with flowers. 

Having gone into what he calls a “luxury business” at the beginning of the recession in 2007, Nejad had to think of creative ways to outsmart the economy. Rather than scrimp, he concentrated on design and quality product. 

Instead of ordering roses locally or from Mexico, for example, he buys from Ecuador. 

“Wholesalers import from Ecuador because of the ideal temperature and growing conditions,” he said. “They have the best quality of roses in the world.” 

To support his point, he produced clusters of Ecuadorian roses, cymbidium orchids (from New Zealand, mind you) and dahlias in a tall, leaf-lined glass vase ($124.95).  Although a “customer’s budget dictates the size of an arrangement,” Nejad said, people are usually willing to pay for quality and creativity.  

It gets even more depressing at Morgan’s Custom Jewelry, where they were bound and determined to double my Valentine blues. 

“…the perfect something”

Melissa Varon Weinberg, whose grandfather (the Morgan namesake) started in the jewelry business 68 years ago, remembered a married couple who came in separately to order Valentine gifts for each other. 

“They had to have the perfect something,” Weinberg said about the memorable incident several years ago. The wife ordered a $19,000 Rolex watch for her husband, and he had an even pricier jeweled necklace custom-made for her. (Sickening, isn't it?) 

“The day the items arrived,” Weinberg continued, “we made private phone calls to them on their cell phones. As Murphy’s Law goes, the couple showed up on the same day at around the same time.”

Ironically, the pair didn’t see each other enter, she said, and the Morgan staff members were practically turning somersaults keeping the two preoccupied on opposite sides of the store. The couple departed separately, never knowing (unless they pretended otherwise) the other was there.

Though “the foot traffic may have slowed down a bit” at Morgan’s—at 50 Peninsula Center for 16 years—Weinberg said they are “lucky during these rough times [to] have a loyal clientele.”  

Loyal and insanely lucky, I suppose, which might also be said of a dental assistant who was the recipient of 10 dozen red roses from Hillside Florists in Golden Cove. (I guess if a dozen red roses come times 10, it's OK.) 

Of course, Hillside Florists did not pay for the $1,200 order, or the steep delivery charge, the dental assistant’s lovesick Valentine did. And the flowers did not arrive all at once.

Roses every hour on the hour

Fay Amini, owner of the shop tucked beneath Admiral Risty, said her customer asked that a dozen roses be delivered to his girlfriend every hour on the hour.   

“The first delivery was kind of expected,” Amini said. “The second time, [the young woman] was amazed that the flowers came from the same person. Then, after the third delivery, she was going crazy … everyone in the office coming out to the desk."

Where that couple ended up splitting, Amini said, another pair fared better. In that instance, a customer from San Francisco ordered 500 rose petals. Romancing a local lass, he had planned a fancy Valentine’s Day picnic on the beach and hired a helicopter to drop the petals at a specified golden moment. 

The shower of rose petals ended happily. 

“They ended up getting married,” said Amini, a florist for 27 years.

Speaking of rose petals, I suppose this last story has to appeal—even to me.

It happened last year, when a designer from Yellow Vase on Silver Spur was asked to come up with Welcome Home décor for a man’s wife, who was coming home from the hospital on Valentine’s Day. 

“She had undergone a cancer treatment,” said Hasttie Sahar, 29, owner of the Rolling Hills bakery/flower shop/cafe with her mother and sister. 

The woman’s husband wanted the house decorated “from the front door to the bedroom,” said Sahar, who is also a full-time attorney.

The designer started by showering the path with rose petals, and then “basically revamped the whole bedroom with flowers,” she said. “Not a single arrangement, but flowers on night stands, on the mantle over the fireplace, everywhere, everything done in pinks, the wife’s favorite color.” 

The room was a veritable explosion of pink: varieties of roses, peonies, orchids, ranunculus and a Yellow Vase favorite, hydrangeas, Sahar said. 

“It was the most beautiful, most romantic, most extravagant decor we’ve ever done,” she said.

All kidding aside (well, not entirely), Sahar did give me an idea I can actually use. Purchasing heart-shaped Valentine cookies for my grandchildren’s classrooms. 

Who needs heart-shaped diamond earrings when you can do something nice for others—especially when they include two youngsters you adore?

Then again…

Arthur R. Vinsel February 14, 2011 at 07:24 PM
Great Valentine's story, informative but entertaining. Reminds me how in my checkered career my ex-sister-in-law hired me i n her florist shop for peak holidays, adding to a resume including daily newspaper reporter, PR copywriter, attendant in a state hospital for the criminally insane, graveyard shift 7-Eleven (stop-and-rob) clerk, freelance window washer, assistant editor of a country music magazine, religion blog writer, watercolor artist and copy edior of fiction and nonfiction books. This note is nonfiction. Someday I'll decide what I want to be when I grow up. Art Vinsel
Katharine Blossom Lowrie February 15, 2011 at 01:22 AM
We reporters do think and act alike. Although, an attendant in a state hospital for the criminally insane? THAT I haven't done! You should write about it.


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