QUINCY — Ann Riutzel said what started with a few orders trickling in to her Broadway flower shop in January will end Friday with an avalanche.
"We will have people call at 4 o'clock wanting to place an order," for Valentine's Day, said Riutzel, who owns Wellman Florist, 1040 Broadway.
In total, Riutzel says she expects to have filled more than 500 orders by the close of business Friday.
Most of Quincy's florists agree that Feb. 14 is one of their busiest days of the year. Other popular flower-filled holidays are Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Robin Henehan, owner of Flower Girl of Quincy, says most of her orders will come on Friday.
"I'm not exactly sure why they wait; maybe it is to make some sort of grand romantic gesture; or maybe it is that they were thinking of doing something else and then changed their mind and decided to get flowers," Henehan said.
She said she anticipates completing between 25 to 50 orders for flowers.
It is a similar story at Holtschlag Florist, where Mike Ericson is the fourth generation of his family to own the flower shop on South 12th Street.
"There will always be a last-minute rush. The phone will be ringing off the hook, and the printer will just print one online order form out after another," Ericson said. He expects to complete hundreds of orders by the time the shop closes.
Both Riutzel and Ericson say red roses remain the most popular flower given on Valentine's Day.
"We will do a lot of arrangements for a dozen of roses, but there's always someone who prefers a mixed floral arrangement," Ericson said. "The lilies, the alstroemeria and carnations are all gaining in popularity, but roses are certainly still king when it comes to Valentine's Day."
Red roses are so popular that local florists ordered nearly 4,000 for their stores in preparation for the holiday. The orders were placed in December.
"I've been doing this for 45 years, and back in the 1970s, it was not as big of a flower holiday," Riutzel said. "Now, there's a lot more focus on the flowers."
Other popular flowers delivered on Valentine's Day include gerbera daisies, lilies, tulips and perennial flowers such as African violets.
Ericson agreed with Riutzel, attributing the popularity of giving flowers on Valentine's Day to local florists who now deliver the flowers to work and home.
"In my opinion, it is a lot more popular to get the flowers at work than to come home and find them on the counter," Ericson said.
And while many customers know what to get their beloved, local business owners say they often have to help customers find the perfect flower.
"We also tell them to really listen to what she says when she sees the flowers. If she says she loves lavender roses or yellow roses, then let us know that," Riutzel said.
Staff at Wellman Florist say they archive specific flowers in each order year to year, which allows them to look back to ensure that they include a customer's favorite flower.
Another change local florists have made is dropping the longtime rules regarding a particular flower's meaning, which could vary from one florist to another.
"We tell people to not read too much into that and to not assume," Riutzel said. She said people have come to enjoy the flowers for their beauty and not for some hidden meaning.
Local florists say another change is the proliferation of online ordering and third-party vendors who collect online sales and then pass them onto the local florist.
Florists at Wellman, Holtschlag and Flower Girl recommend those placing orders to contact them directly to ensure quality and completeness of the order.
While the National Retail Federation says Americans will spend $2.3 million on flowers for Valentine's Day, retailers at Kirlin's Cards and Gifts and the Yum Factory say they will see plenty of Valentine's Day shoppers spending money in their stores, too.
"We have definitely had a lot more people in the store, buying cards and candy. Nobody buys the heart-shaped candy boxes anymore. It seems to have lost popularity," said Samantha Slee, manager at Kirlin's. "People seem to like having the ability to pick out the specific candy that they want."
Slee said Willow Tree figurative sculptures are another popular item on Valentine's Day. Meanwhile, Yum Factory owner Melanie Aitken said she is bracing for lots of last-minute shoppers who are looking for something sweet to share with their loved one.
"The focus is definitely on the chocolate-covered strawberries," Aitken said. The strawberries have been gaining popularity as a Valentine's Day gift since the 1960s when a small gourmet store in Chicago began selling them.
Other popular candies at the Yum Factory are turtles, truffles, caramels, decorated cookies and cupcakes.
Aitken says that while some candies have fallen in and out of favor with the shopping public, Valentine's Day "really hasn't changed. It has always been an insane holiday."
Among the craziness of a hectic day, the five local retailers agree each Valentine's Day is memorable.
"It is a fun, lighthearted holiday, and I think we all enjoy it," Ericson said. "No matter whether the gift is flowers, candy, teddy bears or jewelry, I think we all enjoy helping people celebrate the ones they love."