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COVID VALENTINE: Keeping love alive in pandemic times

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Love can be shown in different ways. Through gifts, laughter or maybe just spending a night away from the kids. Whatever it may be, that expression on Valentine's Day 2021, may need to be adjusted.

For instance, take the classic a tradition of a night.

"In the past, it's been the first big holiday of season for us," Chester's Kitchen and Bar General Manager Henry Clarin said. "It's been weird to reflect on a year ago. Valentine's Day was technically the last holiday we could operate 100%."

While heart shaped décor fills Chester's Kitchen and Bar, the business will not be seeing it's annual crowd.

"Right the trend is we are going to run 60 to 65% on that 50% capacity," he continued. "So, has curb side helped? It absolutely has. But, unfortunately you are just limited to that capacity."

Still, couples like Angela and John Beaudion, look forward to the tradition. The newly weds were married on Feb. 14, 2020, but have been together for nearly 14 years.

"Right now, we have reservations at Victoria's Sunday night. My mom is gonna take her, so our older two can get a break," Angela said. "I told him he has to figure out the rest."

"Unfortunately, the rest is probably consisting coming back home and having some family time," John chimed in. "There's not a lot more we can do right now!"

Other couples, like Ed and Mary Lynn Leidig, who are nearing their 60th wedding anniversary, aren't ready to venture out quite yet.

"We're still trying to figure out what we are going to do for our 60th because of COVID," Mary Lynn said.

Now in their 80s, the couple picked out their wedding rings on Valentine's day 60 years ago. While they may not have spent a night out on the town, the love birds do have other plans.

"We have another tradition that we do and that is, back about the 1990s, there about, we went and bought a Valentine together. And on the back of it, every year we write down what we did and it brings back a lot of good memories," Ed said, holding up card filled with handwritten memories.

"Sixty years you don't remember everything. Or at least, we don't," Mary Lynn added.

"It's going to be a short one this year," Ed joked.

Some memories are instead remembered through a timeless Valentine memento.

"One thing we really enjoy is when a lady comes in and she has a ring and is really passionate about it," Rochester Lapidary Jewelers President Adam Kirkoff said. "We wear these items every day and we forget that every item has a story. People are very connected."

Kirkoff says its during pandemic times that he's seen more and more people opting to create a memory through jewels.

"I think people have been spending a lot more time with their spouses or loved one, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife," he said. "And what they are doing is maybe deciding, 'yup, we should get married.'"

While it might be too early to call sales for this Valentine's Day -- Kirkoff says when men are shopping it's often last minute -- he predicts higher success this year. Adding that sales were up about 25% during the 2020 Christmas season.

That same upward sales trend is happening at Rochester's Carousel Florals, too.

"It is a very big, busy week," co-owner Jack Hawkins said. "We sell lots and lots of flowers."

Valentine's Day may be the perfect holiday for gifting flowers, but Hawkins is seeing another side of their business boom.

"People are home more. So, we've seen our sales increase on home décor and plants. Plants have just gone through the roof," he said. "We are using flowers to communicate. A lot of cards will say ' hi grandma, sorry we can't get together.' Or, 'wish we were there' or something to that effect. All of the sales are up tremendously. All the way around and it's just how people are reacting to it."

Simply put, everyone has been reacting differently to this past year.

"Flowers are just cheerful," Hawkins said. "You don't have them every day. And who you get them from makes a big difference."

Couples like Vickie and Jack Carra, who don't get to see each other every day, say it's the time that makes the difference. Jack drives trucks and is often on the road.

"The time home is pretty special to me," Jack said. "Because I'm gone six days a week."

Sunday marks their 34th wedding anniversary. This year, they'll get to spend it together, too.

"I chose it," Vickie said, referring to the date. "And it's not a big love story. It's no big anything. It was all because I was worried. I did not want him to forget the date. But, you know what, after all these years, he wouldn't have forgotten it anyway.

Whether you are nearing 60 years, 34 or just your first year of marriage; go tell your COVID Valentine, you love them.

Beret Leone

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