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Saturday, December 02, 2023

Local businesses offer ways to get festive this Valentine’s Day

Five local businesses share how they’re catering to the community for Valentine’s Day

Three UF students founded Sister Sweets & Treats just in time for Valentine's Day.
Three UF students founded Sister Sweets & Treats just in time for Valentine's Day.

From picnics to art markets, bouquets to sweet treats, Gainesville’s small businesses are providing ways for everyone in the community to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Zula’s Cakes

Zula’s Cakes is providing a sweet and safe way to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year.

Kimberly Zelaya, owner of Zula’s Cakes and a 2014 UF psychology graduate, said the business started after her sister-in-law’s cake dropped moments before her wedding. 

“So we rushed, and it was a pool of all skills from a very young age and saying, ‘Well, we're going to try to save this wedding,’” she said. “And so that was the first official cake I ever made. And I loved the rush. I loved the thrill of it.”

Saving her sister-in-law’s wedding cake at just 15 years old sparked an interest in Zelaya to continue making cakes, which she taught to herself.

Zelaya originally started selling cakes in Miami, but she now caters to the Gainesville community.

For Valentine’s Day, the shop is featuring chocolate-covered Oreos, custom cakes and brownies in a jar, which Zelaya said she hopes can create pandemic-safe fun.

Zelaya said the jar full of Dutch cocoa mix can allow families to have a bake night at home and serve as an alternative for going out to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day.

“I really do think that there is a way for you to have a good night, and so we would love to be a part of everyone's celebration that is looking to stay in and still enjoy Valentine's,” she said.

Zelaya said Zula’s Cakes caters to all holidays, and when looking to order for these festivities she encourages the Gainesville community to support local businesses.

Customers can order from Zula’s Cakes for pick-up or delivery through Facebook, Instagram or its website.

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Luxe Picnics GNV

Combining both comfort and convenience, Luxe Picnics GNV gives couples the tools to have a luxurious outdoor date.

Owner Denise Pucci, 34, said she wants her picnics to be an experience people will always remember. 

“I want them to always walk away with a ‘wow’ factor,” she said, “and to know how much love and passion I have for having people feel a good experience and making memories.”

Luxe Picnics GNV offers different ways to customize and individualize the picnic experience.

With options such as a charcuterie board, a fondue package, a polaroid camera or painting materials, Pucci said the goal is to make customers feel “boujee” and “cute” while having a picnic. 

Pucci added that a bouquet can be added and a photographer will be present for 15 minutes to capture the experience. 

Customers can rent a slot for two hours and add on an hour as they please. Customers also have the option to bring their own food and order just the set-up and activities or do an “in-home experience, where the picnic can be brought to their homes and backyards. 

Although booked for this Valentine’s Day weekend, Pucci said she has plans to expand the business to include more time and options moving into summer. 

Customers can schedule and customize a picnic through Luxe Picnics GNV’s website, Facebook or Instagram

Sister Sweets & Treats

Just one month ago, three friends and UF students brought the idea of sharing their favorite treats with the Gainesville community to life.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Kaelee Storey, 21, Ashlee Perkins, 24, and Jada Rogers, 21, founded Sister Sweets & Treats.

Perkins, a social media manager and decorator for the business, said they provide chocolate-covered strawberries, pretzels and Oreos in various styles and assortments.

Storey, a decorator for Sister Sweets & Treats, said all orders can be customized with chocolate letters and other designs.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, Storey wants customers to enjoy the aspect of giving.

“I hope our customers find joy in gifting a valentine, friend, family member or themselves with our treats,” she said. 

She also said she hopes people will see Sister Sweets & Treats as a new place to satisfy their sweet tooth.

Storey said they were surprised with all the support they’ve gained so quickly. 

“Friends and strangers are supporting our business, and we couldn’t be more thrilled,” she said.

To order for pick-up or delivery from Sister Sweets & Treats, customers can fill out the Google form in their Instagram bio.

Sweet July Design

Sweet July Design will make an appearance at the AUK Market’s pop-up this Saturday, located at 2031 NW 6th St.

Owner and lead designer Annie Borden, 32, said she will be selling wrapped bouquets for Valentine’s Day at the market. 

Borden said the flowers she uses typically come from four or five local farms near Gainesville, but most of them will be imported for this weekend’s sales.

“They're as fresh as you can get them, and it's a little bit more sustainable,” she said. “I know the farmers and their sustainability practices.”

Borden said the bouquets contain a variety of different long-lasting blooms which offer a “natural feel.”

“They’ll be colorful and a mixture of texture and sizes,” she said. “They'll be wrapped in pretty tissue paper and tied with ribbon and looking so cute.”

Borden hopes the bouquets bring joy and beauty to whoever’s hands they end up in.

“I think we could all use more joy and beauty, but also, we're coming out of a very hard year, and this one is continuing to be hard,” she said. “I just love the idea that people will be buying things that bring joy and beauty, and also remind us to be present in the moment because they do fade.” 

Borden is currently offering a discount for orders placed for pick-up at the AUK Market. For customers avoiding crowds, pick-up is available at her home studio. For more information on how to order, customers can visit Sweet July Design on Instagram and Facebook

Artisans’ Guild

The 50-year-old art gallery is turning its monthly market into a Valentine’s art market Saturday.  

JoAnn Alarid, Artisans’ Guild’s chairman of advertising, said the gallery has been implementing more young and diverse artists to the market, and many will be displaying themed items this weekend, such as crocheted hearts and live calligraphy and music.

Alarid said the market will allow patrons to find unique gifts and support local businesses and artists. 

“We offer quite a wide range of gifts in our gallery,” she said. “It’s not just paintings. We have ceramics, we have different styles of paintings, we offer jewelry, and many different styles.”

This weekend’s market will take place at 224 NW 2nd Ave. In case of rain on Saturday, the market will be moved to Sunday at the same time and place.

Contact Kristin Bausch at Follow her on Twitter @BauschKristin.

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Kristin Bausch

Kristin Bausch is a third-year journalism major at the University of Florida and a staff writer with the Avenue. Giving people an opportunity to share their story is one of her favorite things about writing. When not writing, she’s probably dancing.

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