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What to say?

ANNA BLOOM, Of the Record staff

"They think roses say it all," quips Tonia Stewart from behind the counter at Park City’s Silver Cricket Floral and Interiors.

She checks in the back for orders: so far just six orders for flowers, she reports, with one addressed "secret admirer."

"We get orders for teddy bears, candies and all that’s supposed to make up for the words, I suppose," Stewart says. " ‘You are my everything’ I’ve seen that on a card I think it’s about time people get creative."

The pressure to be creative, however, can be discouraging.

February 14 is often accompanied by a sudden pang of writer’s block, leading Valentine’s Day scribes to put down the pen and pull out the wallet.

According to the National Retail Federation sending a store-bought card is the most popular way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and most are purchased last minute — within the six days leading up to the big day.

"Valentine’s Day cards are different than other cards they really just sell right before the holiday," confirms Old Town’s Dolly’s Bookstore manager Joe Blonigen. "We sell a lot in the last few days."

There’s rarely a best-selling Valentine card that pleases everyone, he says.

"The cards we sell tend to be irreverent, not traditional the sentiments vary wildly from really funny to sickeningly sweet, but there’s not one sentiment that everyone says, ‘yes, this is exactly what I was looking for,’" he explained. "You sell a lot of different cards I guess that’s just part of the differences in people."

One card at Dolly’s that people gravitate toward depicts an older couple in a retro motorcycle with a sidecar that reads: "On life’s road, it’s not where you go, but who’s by your side that makes the difference." Another, newer card that appears to sell well according to Blonigen is a card illustrated with heart-shaped jelly beans in a jar that reads, "guess the number of hearts in the fishbowl and I’ll grant you wild, sexual favors " and on the inside reads, " close enough. I’ll be right over."

"I will say this: people spend a lot more time picking out a Valentine’s Day card than any other card," Blonigen said. "I don’t think a lot of people like to be put on the spot to think of what to say."

Spotted Frog Bookstore employee and part-time songwriter Paul Slocum recommends reaching back to borrow a line from 19th century poet Charles Baudelaire and 16th century bard William Shakespeare.

"I think it would be nice to write something more personal in a card," Slocum admits, but aside from writing songs for his band, Nocturne Daily, he typically keeps his own writing to himself.

In fact, the Hallmark Retail Industry Leaders Association expects most 2007 Valentine’s Day card-givers may forego words altogether.

Instead, the association predicts cards that play CD-quality favorite songs that use music and sound cards, some using spoken clips from movies, citing "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash and "Wild Thing" by The Troggs as potential top sellers.

Those seeking musicians to sing their Valentine, might also look for the CD itself.

Brian Richards, owner of Park City’s Orion’s music store says these days a "For Lovers Series" Jazz series featuring Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James is selling well.

But frequently, Richards observes, Valentine music shoppers going for more personal choices.

"I tend to find people aren’t buying Valentine’s Day-specific music. They just come in and say ‘oh, my husband really likes Eric Clapton, and he just released an album with J.J. Cale, so I’ll buy him that for Valentine’s Day,’" he explained. "I don’t think people come in looking for Valentine’s Day-themed series."

If asked for a recommendation, Richards steers his customers to the soul section.

"I always go back to the old soul music it’s got a lot of feeling to it, without being too cheesy," he says. "That’s kind of what I’ll throw out to people. Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers — those are the artists I recommend."

Like Richards, Tommy Knockers Jewelry store manager Tom Terry often finds himself counseling romantics in search of the perfect words to engrave on the inside of a gift.

To help a customer decide, Terry asks personal questions, he says.

"The interview process usually involves questions like do you have a nickname or is it a place that’s special," he said.

In the past, he says he has seen "you are the love of my life" chiseled on two wedding rings or the "forever" on another. Sometimes what’s chosen is just a date to engrave, he says, such as the date the two lovers first met.

Terry says the most effective way to be romantic, has less to do with being original, and more to do with being personal.

"Being unique can be an important aspect, but you know, it has to have a really special meaning," he argues. "I would say words have to be personal and the unique quality would be then the singularity of the person or the persons involved."

Though, Terry confesses that when it comes down to his own love life, he tends to resort to roses himself.

"When I courted my wife, I bought her lavender roses," he says. "So, you know words don’t always have to be there."


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