Artistry drives love for Valentine’s Day

Athalia Salinas blows up a giant 'I Love You' balloon at Barone's Westlakes Balloons and Gifts Monday morning in preparation for the holiday.

Sandy Lesnewsky wouldn’t miss her Valentine’s Day rush for the world.

For the veteran florist, there is more than that guaranteed rush of customers, many putting in their orders at the last minute. Lesnewsky gets a rush of her own – one of the adrenaline variety.

Lesnewsky has been a florist for nearly 40 years and even teaches a floral class at Mission College. She also helps out as a floral designer at Barone’s Westlakes Balloons and Gifts, owned by Georgina and Jorge Salinas, on San Felipe Road in Hollister.

She said she gets an adrenaline rush from working the big holidays, with Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day bringing in the most customers year to year.

“If I don’t do it, I get stressed,” said Lesnewsky, who lives in Morgan Hill and grew up in the Bay Area.

As many Hollister residents do their last-minute shopping for Valentine’s Day – whether they are buying flowers, candy or other gifts, or making those reservations for a nice Tuesday dinner – Lesnewsky talked about changing trends in the industry and mentioned something unique about Barone’s floral variety.

For one, customers appear to be coming in later than usual, she said. As for popular varieties, many people have opted for more “exotic” types.

“People, Valentine’s buyers, normally want roses until they see what we have,” said Lesnewsky, who added that their mixed bouquets are a “beautiful product” and how the business offers a special kind of Ecuadorian rose with a larger head and longer life.

Of course, it isn’t just the flower shops whose business booms on the love-themed holiday.

Over at Dona Esther Mexican Restaurant in San Juan Bautista, the staff on Monday was preparing for a busy Tuesday night, while dinner will include live entertainment from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Manager Tami Castaneda boasted in particular about the restaurant’s new “Margarita Caliente” – which includes Don Julio Silver, lime, Triple Sec and fresh jalapeno with a chili-salsa rim – and the “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” drink with Crown Royal and Apple Pucker.

“We’re looking forward to a really busy, great night,” she said.

Castaneda said the family-owned restaurant’s night also will include a glass of wine for the customers and carnations for the women. She recommended reservations, but they’re not required.

It isn’t just the ladies who might get a surprise on Valentine’s Day. The Market and The Butcher Shop at South and San Benito streets in downtown Hollister is offering the “Man Valentine,” which is a slew of handmade, artisan sausages shaped into a heart, along with a beer bottle of choice filling out its center.

“People are entertained by it,” said co-owner Carla Thorning.

Staff writer Adam Breen contributed to this report. See Breen’s column about the “Man Valentine” in The Pinnacle on Friday.

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