HARLINGEN — Valentine’s Day is all business for Brian Rivera, and it has been for the past six years since he married into a family that has always sold gifts at several parking lot stands throughout the city.
Surrounded by shiny balloons, stuffed gorillas and all sorts of pink, red and white baskets of sweets, Brian was hard at work yesterday unloading boxes and unpacking one of his mother-in-law’s creations: a rose bud inside a decorated crystal ball filled with water.
They sell for $20.
“The flowers are natural. They’re real,” Brian said, explaining they last up to two years with proper care and frequently changing the water. “My mother-in-law is the boss, the one with the ideas. It’s her art. She taught my wife everything about making the arrangements.”
And Brian wasn’t the only one making preparations for what’s expected to be a busy day. His wife Janeth Camacho was creating floral arrangements from the back of their mini-van, where an assortment of fresh roses, sunflowers and other decorative blooms were neatly spread out.
Already a customer was waiting for a bouquet specially ordered for his mother.
“I was driving by, and I saw this stand,” said Manuel Maldonado, about the gift stand located on the parking lot of Nite Shift Sports Bar on North Ed Carey Drive. “It’s my first time, and the lady, she’s actually making an arrangement for me that I asked her for. I know there are lots of other establishments and stores, all these places, but what better than to give back to a community business? Also, it’s the convenience.”
Manuel, fresh bouquet of flowers in hand, also purchased two of those unique crystal balls.
“I wanted to get something for my mom because my dad passed away two years ago. I’m actually going to get her one of these glass flowers. They’re pretty unique,” he said. “I’m also going to get one for my father. I’m going to put it in his grave so they can both have one.”
Brian explained preparations for Valentine’s Day began right on Jan. 1, when non-perishable materials and supplies were purchased and sorted. The weeks that followed involved assembling the gift baskets and decorating the “peluches,” as he called the stuffed animals.
This year, about 300 gift baskets of all sizes were ready by Feb. 5. Prices range from $10 to $25 for the small gifts and $30 and up for the larger baskets and stuffed animals.
The fresh flowers were delivered yesterday morning. Customers can expect everything from the traditional dozen-rose vase arrangements, which cost $55, to more creative alternatives like a box of rose buds or an elegant, long-stemmed sunflower bouquet.
While the occasional customer stopped by the day before Valentine’s Day to beat the crowds, Brian said most people visited the gift stand yesterday to ask for prices and see the assortment of gifts they offer.
“It’s like they like to feel things out,” he said. “They like to ask questions, see things and that’s it.”
But Brian and his wife are ready for a long day of ongoing sales today, especially because they have another gift stand on the parking lot of the Family Dollar store on North 77 Sunshine Strip.
“In past years, we’ve been here until past midnight,” he said. “A lot of times it’s very late and we’re packing up when suddenly people show up because they forgot something, they forgot a gift. We’re still here.”