Pine Belt gentlemen shop late for Valentine's Day

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Jewelers, bakers and florists: What do they have in common? This is one of the busiest times of year for them all.

Renting extra storage, hiring temporary staff, working overtime, they pull out all the stops to cater to Valentine's Day shoppers.

Paulette LeBlanc of Southland Florists has to rent a truck every year for Valentine's Week; it is not for deliveries, it is for storage.

"The thirteenth and the fourteenth are the two single busiest days of the year for probably any florist," said LeBlanc.

LeBlanc's family runs the oldest florist shop in Hattiesburg; she grew up the daughter of florists, and she is prepared – every year at this time she more than doubles her staff and this season she is adding four extra delivery drivers. Those four extra Valentine's drivers are none other than Hattiesburg's finest.

"Mostly, at the moment, it's off-duty police officers," said LeBlanc. "They know the town real well." LeBlanc added that she must reserve them months in advance, so the officers' schedules do not book up.

Several local business said that with the economy slowly improving Valentine's business has been about the same this year as last – maybe even a little bit better, LeBlanc said.

It's a holiday where men are often the ones buying, which can make it interesting, if not entertaining, said LeBlanc.

"A lot of men know two flowers, they know roses and tulips, and I'm not sure they know what the two look like, but that's what they know to ask for," she added.

Whether it is flowers or chocolates or jewelry or something a touch unconventional, it is likely Pine Belt gentlemen are getting on Valentine's Day; it is a holiday where the gift givers seem to squeak it out.

"They'll wait until the last day, because you know, men, we're busy," said James Hinton, owner of Hattiesburg restaurant The Pastry Garden.

Day-of shopping is the standard.

"We're fixing to hit tomorrow morning at eight o'clock when they call and say, ''I'm early aren't I?' Well no, a month ago at this time you would have been early," LeBlanc smiled. "Not now."

"People are scrambling, and that makes it tough on us in the service industry because we're scrambling also," said Hinton. "We're going to work all night to prep up for tomorrow."

The Pastry Garden has teamed up with The Four Seasons Florist to make it easier on the guys: one-stop shopping.

But for ladies - if your guy is shopping late, it may not actually be all that bad. In some places, when men get there late and the Valentine's basics are bought out, they cannot go home empty-handed, so they may just need to bump up their price range.

"We'll be out of a lot of hearts," said Jewelmasters Store Manager Sabrina Malone. "We'll be out of a lot of things so a lot of guys will be forced to buy different items other than what they came in here for."

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