MONTPELIER — The cold didn’t stop the Valentine’s Day Phantom from striking again in the Capital City.
The usual display of paper red hearts plastered on storefront windows in the downtown in dazzling sunshine was enough to warm the hearts and souls of many, despite the cold.
The reverie of the community-wide celebration has been a staple in the city for decades, apart from a one-year break when the original phantom — identity still a closely guarded secret — moved away and an equally secret band of volunteers stepped in to take the Phantom’s place.
As hoped, the paper hearts appeared overnight, and again this year, included additional hearts that had been colored by elementary school children in the city.
Businesses were hoping for a good day, despite a slow start and the below-zero temperatures early morning.
Flowers, chocolates, cards and dinner reservations were the order of the day at many businesses.
Botanica Florals’ co-owner Sarah McAllister said Valentine’s Day started early this year for the business.
“We’ve been actually filling a lot of orders all week because Valentine’s Day is on a Friday, so a lot of people who want Valentine’s flowers sent to work like them to be there all week, so it’s really been a very busy week, all over,” McAllister said. “Then, because of the weather being so cold today, yesterday was super, super busy — a lot of people wanted their flowers before it got very, very cold.
“This year, people are looking for lots of color and lots of spring – tulips, iris, that’s really popular right now. We also do a lot of little bulb plants like azalea and succulents, something that can grow. People really want to see green right now,” she added.
Around the corner at Regal Flower Design in the Rabble Rouser space on Main Street, there was a similar theme when it came to Valentine’s flower requests.
“We have a lot of roses, but there’s a lot of spring flowers that people want – lots of tulips and fresia, and daisies, even ... bright colors,” said owner Rebecca Miracle.
At Rabble Rouser, shopkeeper Jennifer Overton said business was particularly brisk before Valentine’s Day.
She said popular choices for chocolates included French ganache chocolates, and truffles, including the Bees Knees and Tom Cat fillings created with spirits from the nearby Caledonia Spirits distillery on Barre Street.
Liz Knapp, a co-owner of Rabble Rouser, added: “I was surprised how many people wanted truffles this year, because previously, every year we made double the amount of truffles when we were in Middlesex, and every year it was a dud. This year, the truffles are flying off the shelves, maybe because it’s a different location.”
Round the corner on State Street, two other chocolate confectionery businesses were also hoping to do well on Valentine’s Day.
At Delish, co-owner Mary Kay Blouin had just opened but said she business was booming on Thursday.
“Yesterday was fantastic, it was just full of people,” she said. “It started kind of slow but it was really cruising after 2:30 (p.m.), people buying lots of truffles.”
Across the street at the Cocoa Bean of Vermont, co-owner Jane Delia had a similar story.
“Round truffles,” Delia said when asked what customers were looking for, “and, peanut butter cups and caramels, but we sell everything.”
At Bear Pond Books, co-owner Claire Benedict said the Valentine’s Day would be a busy day for the store.
“We have a lot of Valentine’s Day cards and a 10-for-10 (10 books for $10) sale going on, so as soon as we opened the doors, people started coming in.
“It’s kind of a busy day in general, with people wanting to see the phantom valentines and getting Valentine’s Day gifts. It’s really my favorite day in Montpelier,” she added.
At La Brioche café and bakery at NECI on Main, customers were offered a range of pastries, cookies, cakes and cupcakes, some with Valentine’s Day themes that quickly sold out.
“We have Valentine’s Day options for dessert pastries and decorations and have been very busy lately, selling out,” said barista Jordan Higgins.
Early Friday morning, Positive Pie was one of the few restaurants open early, getting ready for the lunch and a heavily booked dinner crowd.
Owner Carlo Roberto was busy making pizzas and had already planned the dinner menu, which included a spinach salad and shrimp cocktail appetizers, sweet potato gnocchi, ahi tuna and prime rib entrees, and for dessert, strawberry cannoli, tiramisu and strawberry mousse.
“I might make some heart-shaped pizzas, when I get a moment to breathe, because we’re trying to get ready for a big day, today,” Roberto said.
Kent Bigglestone, co-owner of Capitol Stationers, said the identity of The Phantom would remain a mystery, as far as he was concerned.
“It seems like every year, we have this conversation but I enjoy our little tradition,” Bigglestone said. “It’s nice that this has been going on, 15, 20 years. ... I could tell you who The Phantom is, but I’d have to kill you.”