Businesses cater to Valentine sales

RICHLAND -- As she carried several boxes out of Desserts by Kelly in Richland, Angela Trenti explained she had decided to give her husband, Carlo, "a little pre-Valentine" treat.

"He loves red velvet," the Kennewick woman said of the heart-shaped red velvet cake she planned to hand her husband, who was waiting in the parking lot.

Trenti likely is one of many Tri-City residents who are turning to locally owned stores to provide treats for their sweethearts this Valentine's Day.

Tri-City stores are offering a variety of ways to show you care, from hand-dipped chocolates for your sweetie to beer-themed apparel for your beer-loving mate.

Faye Alexander, whose daughter Kelly owns Desserts by Kelly, said she has been busy selling heart-shaped cookies and cakes.

"I never left this counter all day long," she said as she staffed the counter at the Uptown Shopping Center store.

"I think we're busier than we were last year," she added.

Chocolate cookies and cakes have been popular items.

The store is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday.

Business also has been booming atBaum's House of Chocolates in West Richland, said Kristin Gustin, a manager there and the daughter of owners Rick and Gayle Vance.

Truffles and chocolate-coated caramel squares are some of their top sellers this year, Gustin said. She said the store's sea salt caramels also have been particularly popular with wine connoisseurs who say the sweet and salty combo goes well with area wines.

Gustin said Valentine's Day sales seemed up over last year so far, as were Christmas sales. She thinks locals are realizing the Tri-Cities has not been as hard hit economically as other parts of the country.

"People are willing to spend a little more," she added.

The store at 4033 W. Van Giesen St. will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Sunday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday.

Valentine's Day gift shoppers in Franklin County can find home-made candies and ice cream at the Country Mercantile on Highway 395, six miles north of Pasco.

"Every piece (of chocolate) is hand-dipped," said manager Monique Kaas. The store's chocolates and gourmet foods are popular sellers this time of year.

"Gourmet food and chocolate kind of keep us going this time of year," said Kaas of the store that also specializes in local produce.

The store is open winter hours, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Those who are looking for something a little less traditional for their partner might want to check out The Educated Cigar.

"My hobbies are cigars and wine," said owner and retired Battelle supervisor Rick Ornstein.

His store specializes in high-end cigars as well as "cigars for everyone." Most are in the $8 to $18 range.

The store also offers a selection of wines rated 95 or higher (on a scale of 100) by Wine Spectator magazine. Price tags vary from $15 to $250 a bottle.

Ornstein said a TV ad that has been airing this week has attracted some people to his store that is in the same building as Atomic Bowl, 624 Wellsian Way, in Richland.

The Educated Cigar will be open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Monday.

If your sweetie is more of a beer swiller than a wine swirler, gift ideas await at local breweries, including Ice Harbor Brewing Co. in Kennewick.

The brewery sells women's and men's beer-themed apparel as well as six packs, 22-ounce bottles and "party pigs" of its home-made brews, said Ryan Gribble, home brew supply manager.

He said it's not uncommon for a woman to come in around Valentine's Day, or other holidays, and ask for a gift for her husband.

"We kind of help her out and point her in the right direction," Gribble said.

Ice Harbor's brew pub at 206 N. Benton St. and its restaurant at 350 Clover Island Drive are open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. today, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday.

Many other locally owned stores offer gifts suitable for Valentine's Day, or any other day of the year.

"I think that's the way to go," said Steve Arbogast of Richland, a regular Desserts by Kelly customer. "Support local businesses.

"The ones I buy from have really good stuff," he added. "If they have good stuff, support them."

* Kathy Korengel: 509-582-1541; kkorengel@tricityherald.com