Valentine’s Day in Birmingham: A Guide for Procratinators

I have a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day. I think it’s fun to have a day to eat candy, give little cards to friends, and not worry about red and pink clashing. But the heavy pressure on making Valentine’s Day THE indicator of your romantic relationship seems a little bit nuts. There are lots of times I’m glad I’m not a dude (ahem, football season), and Valentine’s Day is certainly one of them.


Luckily, you can procrastinate and not have a clue what to get for Valentine’s Day and still come off looking like a prince just by shopping locally. (Although maybe not a Disney prince — that’s in the hair.) Gifts bought locally tend to be more unique and special, but let’s be honest: Valentine’s Day is Saturday, and if you’ve waited this long, shopping local is probably your only option for getting stuff here on time anyway.


I put together a gift based on the classics — flowers, candy, etc. — with little local twists (and with an emphasis on availability for last-minute freak-outs).


Box of Chocolates

Unfortunately, a heart-shaped box of drugstore chocolates says “I bought this on the way over here.” That may be true, but it’s usually not a good strategy for romantic success. Put a twist on the “box of chocolates” concept by filling a box with chocolatey specialties from local shops — try chocolate cupcakes from Urban Standard, Chocolate Coco-Chip Cookies from Church Street Coffee & Books, and chocolate biscotti or a chocolate croissant from Continental Bakery.


(Pro Tip: Don’t eat one out of the box before you go. Just order a couple extra in a bag on the side; that way you can eat what you like and still look self-sacrificial when you present a full box to your Valentine. Plus the sugar high will help you get over any residual romantic cynicism.)



If you’re searching for heritage pieces or an engagement ring or something, I really hope you’re not getting your ideas from my blog. But if you just want something pretty and special and in a $20-$50 range, Charm is your place. They have a good range of jewelry ranging from sweet to quirky, and if you tell the owner, Chatham, what you’re looking for and show her a picture of your date, she can find something that’ll look great. (Charm is open Saturdays, too, so you can wait until the last minute and still get a gift here and sweets across the street at Urban Standard.)



Lots of people find picnics super-romantic. I usually find them to be annoying because I don’t like menu planning, but The Pantry in Crestline Village has that solved. Call them and order off the menu, or do what I do — just tell them about how much food you want and make sure they know you need it to travel well. They package it all up in little travel containers, so all you have to do is toss in some wine (The Pantry sells that, too) and throw it in a bag with a blanket. Bonus points if you wrangle up a basket.



Grocery store flowers are usually the go-to option for procrastinators, but by Valentine’s Day you’re probably going to be stuck with the ones that got smooshed and wilted in the truck. Is “smooshed and wilted” the message you want connected to your love life? I’m guessing not, so Spade & Annual is a really great option. Their arrangements are gorgeous, creative, and look way more expensive than they really are (usually a good quality in romantic gifts). Email them to see about an order.



There are lots of places in town to buy cute cards, but A’Mano in Mountain Brook Village is my favorite. Head straight to the back of the store and find stacks of letterpress, screenprinted and glitter-embossed paper goods ranging from sappy-romantic to jokey. A’Mano also carries lots of small gifts (including jewelry), and it’s really close to Western (they have a big wine selection and a florist inside), so it’s pretty easy to pull off a card-gift-wine-chocolates-flowers bonanza last-minute and in under half an hour.



Looking for a one-stop shop? This Friday from noon to 6:00 and again on Saturday from 10:00 to 2:00, Bustle in Homewood is hosting a Valentine’s Pop-Up. They’ll have floral arrangements from Mandy Vigneulle Busby, personal calligraphy from Holly Hollon Design & Calligraphy, and macarons Magic City Macarons. (Don’t know what a macaron is? Your girlfriend does.) This kind of targeted shopping is what pop-up shops were born for, and the group that Bustle has put together is seriously fantastic. You can pick up a gift in the store, but if you want to secure a flower arrangement or a box of a dozen macarons or more, be sure to pre-order. (Flowers, mandy@mandybusbycreative and macarons, nancy@magiccitymacarons.com.)


** Update ** There’s another Valentine’s Pop-Up this Saturday, too! At The Nest in Avondale (across from the brewery) from 11 am to 4 p.m., and they’ll have flowers, Magic City Macarons, Baking Bandits treats and more. Click here to read all about it.


It is nice to do something for your significant other for Valentine’s Day (if only so they don’t get shamed by their friends and coworkers for not getting anything), and it’s even nicer to give back to your community by buying gifts locally — because it’s less stressful, and because even if your date dumps you, Birmingham probably won’t.


Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local and Reclaim the American Dream. Find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @crollwagen.

Email with a purpose Let's Keep in Touch

Good news (and practical tips) for small businesses — we're not into being pushy or spammy.