Students, businesses prepare for a COVID Valentine’s Day

With+many+new+restrictions%2C+students+are+finding+new+ways+to+meet+people+and+form+new+relationships%2C+and+businesses+are+coming+up+with+new+ways+to+engage+them.+

Wu Caiyi | Senior Staff Photographer

With many new restrictions, students are finding new ways to meet people and form new relationships, and businesses are coming up with new ways to engage them.

By Andrew Thompson, For The Pitt News

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything from daily life to major holidays. And this Valentine’s Day, while love is in the air, COVID is as well.

With many new restrictions, students are finding new ways to meet people and start relationships, and businesses are coming up with new ways to engage them. Some couples were actually able to find each other because of changes caused by COVID.

Emily Crawford, a sophomore politics and philosophy major, said she used to work at a tanning salon before it closed due to COVID. So, she had to get a job at Lowe’s, where she mixed paint with a coworker, who ultimately became her boyfriend.

“We actually started dating during COVID,” Crawford said. “I am not sure how it would have affected it starting prior to COVID, but it has definitely been interesting. We hadn’t had the typical first dates that other couples have had, so we are just hanging out.”

Crawford said she and her boyfriend are able to spend time together on the days that they work, so Valentine’s Day for them will be like any other day.

“We are celebrating a little bit early because of work, but this year we are probably going to get some take out, watch a movie and, to be honest, play some Minecraft together,” Crawford said.

While students are adjusting to a COVID Valentine’s Day, businesses are as well. Jason Gidas, the manager of Gidas Flowers on Forbes Avenue, said Valentine’s Day is possibly the most important holiday of the year for the business, but the store has had to adapt this year.

Gidas said walk-in deliveries are difficult when it comes to limiting people in the store, so they are encouraging pre-orders to limit the number of people in the shop.

“We are doing contactless deliveries,” Gidas said. “Our drivers are instructed to leave it on the porch and let them know that they have a package to pick up right outside their houses or hand it directly to them.”

In order to prepare for Valentine’s Day, Gidas said he and his employees start one or two months before February so they can stock up on containers, baskets and other plants the store will sell throughout the month.
Gidas isn’t the only business expecting Valentine’s Day to draw in more customers. The Milkshake Factory is also preparing for increased sales this weekend. Dana Edwards Manatos, the CEO of the company, said Valentine’s Day is a very important day for the stores.

”We are very well known in the community,” Manatos said. “Our number one item is our chocolate dipped strawberries. It is something that we have focused on this year to make sure that we stick in line with our COVID procedures to keep everyone safe and still provide a quality product in the volume that we need to do for our customers.”

Manatos said the Milkshake Factory has launched an online ordering system as well as a Valentine’s Day strawberry pre-order program, and will donate a portion of its Valentine’s Day profits to Magee Womens Hospital.

“Partnering with the local communities that we serve is important to our team and our mission to make life sweeter,” Manatos said. “We have a store in Oakland, right down the street from Magee, so when their team was coming into the store the relationship happened organically.”

Jasmine Al-Rasheed, a sophomore sociology and global health double major, said she hopes to spend time with her boyfriend at Yukiyama, a Japanese restaurant in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, which has sushi in the shape of hearts.

“I will hopefully be able to meet my [significant other] in person,” Al-Rasheed said, “but I will be hosting a thing for a club called Galentine’s Day where we will be playing Jackbox. It is a day for all girls that are single or in a ‘situationship.’”

Some students have decided to use the holiday to spend time with friends. Carolyn Cooley, a sophomore rehabilitation science major, said she has decided to go to the Black Cat Market in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood, where customers can drink lattes downstairs and play with kittens in an upstairs play area.

“COVID has made it harder since we cannot go to in-person classes anymore, so it is hard to meet new people at school,” Cooley said. “For Valentine’s Day, a couple of friends and I are going to go pet cats instead of, you know, hanging out with boys.”

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