Chocolates, stuffed animals and roses have returned to the bank statements of San Marcos residents as the season of love kicks in. While spreading Valentine's Day love and joy comes with health risks this year, local businesses are exploring creative and safe ways to make it happen.
Singles or couples can start their day by visiting Stellar Coffee Co., a local San Marcos coffee shop that offers a relaxing study environment along with Valentine's Day specials.
"We are a place where a lot of new couples can have their first date," says Jamie Dehart, barista at Stellar Coffee and Texas State women's psychology junior. "We're a big family back here...and we can express that through our art."
Stellar has released three specialty drinks for the month of February, including “Everything but the date,” a cold brew with frothy rose-flavored foam and crumbled Teddy Grahams on top, “Secret Admirer, ” a creamy red velvet latte with a mystery ingredient and “Stupid Cupid,” a sweet white chocolate drink with a dash of tart raspberry.
"I'm a big art person. I like making very pretty drinks pleasing to the eye... it is nice to have this time of year where we can show that," Dehart says. "We all can [design a heart on drinks] back here and other people, myself included, can do other designs. It's mainly whatever we are feeling in the moment but, with our Valentine's Day drinks, we are focusing on hearts."
Stellar prides itself on having a welcoming and laid-back atmosphere but has taken proper safety precautions since re-opening during the pandemic. The coffee shop offers limited seating, practices frequent sanitization and requires masks for both its staff and customers.
Stellar will soon announce an event on its Instagram page for couples interested in celebrating at the shop on Valentine's Day.
Palmer's Restaurant, an award-winning San Marcos neighborhood favorite, also hopes to create a romantic setting for new and mature relationships. Palmer's takes delight in its locally sourced, high-quality ingredients and specialized menu.
"The Beef Wellington is so unique and creative," says Monte Sheffield, who has owned and operated Palmer's for 10 years with his wife, Kristin Sheffield. "A lot of people may not try that at home. That's the good thing about this restaurant; [it] shows what San Marcos restaurants are capable of doing."
Palmer's, which is known for its wide selection of domestic wines, will host a myriad of festive events available now for reservation, including a Tuesday wine night, exclusive Valentine's weekend menu and Saturday Galentine's night.
"We were a Texas wine ambassador for the way we promote Texas wines," Sheffield says. "On [Valentine's Day] night, we are doing discounts on bottles of house wines to choose from at $18 a bottle."
Palmer's has a scenic view with its Spanish-style architecture and toasty fireplaces. Its indoor and outdoor seating delivers both a warm and safe atmosphere by following capacity limits, social distancing and mask regulations.
"We are always wanting to paint a picture of what the plate is going to look like and the way the servers describe it is salivating," Sheffield says. "[Palmer's] atmosphere exudes a wonderful experience, especially for a night like Valentine's Day."
For couples willing to venture out, Stars and Stripes, a drive-in movie theater in New Braunfels, will screen RomCom
movies like "50 First Dates” and “Sleepless in Seattle” this February. Advanced tickets, $8 per person, will soon become available on its website.
The theater works to provide a comfortable and retro-style film viewing experience for its new and returning customers.
“We have a motto here: ‘Do what's best, do what's right and show our customers we care,’” says Brooke Banda-Segura, staff manager at Stars and Stripes. “Everyone here lives by that motto to show our customers the five-star experience here so they can come back and expect it every time.”
Stars and Stripes has taken extra precautions since the start of the pandemic by implementing zero-contact transactions. Cars are well distanced, outside food and drinks are permitted and advanced booking is available for contactless purchases. Masks, as well as social distancing rules, are enforced for both staff and customers when walking outside vehicles.
“We are a lot more popular now because of COVID,” Brooke says. “I feel like people feel safe here, especially because they do not have to get out of the car if they don't want to. But we still make it safe, like going to the restroom or coming inside to get a drink…we still try to make our customers comfortable here.”
Movie-goers have the option to enjoy snacks from the concession stand or bring their own food or drink into the theater. Either way, couples or singles alone can wrap up in blankets inside or outside their vehicles to experience a romantic evening under the stars.
Like dates, another romantic gesture on Valentine's Day is gifting flowers to friends and loved ones.
Diana Armes, owner of The Floral Studio in San Marcos, says Valentine's Day is one of the busiest times of the year for her business.
"[The pandemic's] changed everything, but it's better than it was the year before, which is surprising, but we're kind of playing everything out," Armes says. "I've made projections for Valentine's Day and at the trend it is going, I think it'll be better than last years, but we won't know until the end result."
Armes believes more people are buying specialty bouquets and trinkets because they want to bring joy and happiness to the ones they love during a time of stress and isolation.
"I think everybody's kind of scaled it back slightly," Armes says. "They are tending to do more add-ons now which they didn't usually do...most people just do a dozen roses and be done, but [they will add a] box of chocolates, add on the balloon, add on a bear, so it's different."
Along with its signature red roses, Armes says most of the bouquets the studio does are custom-designed.
"We do balloon bouquets, and we have [Lamme's] chocolates from Austin," Armes says. "Then we're doing little combinations where it's a bear in a bag, and then we have another one that's flowers and a succulent garden as well as flowers and chocolates with a candle."
Various Valentine's Day specials and combinations are available through The Floral Studio's website. Armes urges the public to "order now" and send something thoughtful to celebrate this non-traditional season of love.
Cristela Jones contributed to this story.