DAYTONA BEACH — With less than 24 hours until the most romantic day of the year, lovelorn customers were packed elbow-to-elbow on Tuesday amid the hearts, ribbons and sweet treats at Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory, ground zero for last-minute Valentine’s Day shopping.
“This is our busiest day of the year,” said Chuck Smith, Angell & Phelps owner. “On top of that, the first two weeks of February are my busiest weeks for tourists, even before you add in the big holiday, so it’s kind of a perfect storm. There are a lot of people in here.”
Smith expects the holiday to spark the sale of roughly 700 dozen chocolate-covered strawberries, ravaging his order of 50 flats’ worth of berries picked overnight on Monday in Plant City and shipped for arrival early on Tuesday morning at the Angell & Phelps factory at 154 S. Beach St.
By Tuesday afternoon, he was preparing to call for an additional order.
The Camarosa strawberries are plump and juicy, nearly the size of a golf ball, dipped in a variety of dark and milk chocolates to become an Angell & Phelps signature Valentine’s Day item. The store is running a holiday special, offering customers who buy one dozen (at $19.95) an additional half dozen for free.
Even so, the strawberries had plenty of competition from a dizzying assortment of treats.
A quick survey of the shelves uncovered Chocolate Heart Pops ($1.95 each); Conversation Hearts emblazoned with a romantic message ($2.95); and trays of assorted confections featuring a chocolate bar with a wrapper that proclaims “I love you more than chocolate, but ummm, yeah, can we share this?”
For the less romantically inclined there are chocolates molded into the shape of tool boxes, golf bags or fishing tackle, as well as rows and rows of malt balls, gummi bears and 18 varieties of fudge, including chewy praline and orange cream.
For traditionalists, heart-shaped boxes of assorted chocolates range from $4.95 for two ounces to $26.95 for a 1-pound box. Angell & Phelps also is willing to customize a box for customers, who might love chocolate-covered cherries, for instance, but pick past anything involving peanuts.
“You can actually pick out the pieces that you like,” Smith said, “whether it’s potato chips covered in chocolate or chocolate-covered bacon or pretzels.”
The factory goes through close to 3,000 pounds of bacon in a typical year, Smith said. That pales, however, next to the 70,000 pounds of chocolate produced annually, a figure that includes 10,000 pounds on Valentine’s Day week alone, he said.
In line for the register, customer George St. Pierre considered a box of chocolate-covered cherries for his girlfriend a Valentine’s Day essential.
“She loves chocolates and loves the ones from here more than anything,” said St. Pierre, owner of Jungle George’s airbrush shop on Main Street. “And it’s nice to support the local businesses.”