Florists aren't the only ones targeting Valentine's shoppers
By RT Morgan

For those who want more bang for their love this Valentine's Day, Big Al's Guns in Pineville may have the perfect firearm.

Located on 637 Main Street, the gun store is one of several businesses in Central Louisiana trying to lure lovers by offering an alternative to roses and chocolates.

So if "your lady's hotter than a $2 pistol" -- as the Big Al's radio ad goes -- a handgun may prove to be the perfect Valentine's gift. That's not to say flowers are withering in popularity. Nationwide, flower shops sold more than 214 million roses in 2007, according to the Web site
And like all florists, today is a busy day for Rick Ferguson.

Ferguson said Wednesday that he added six delivery people and two vans to meet all of the orders his Alexandria flower shop, Rick Ferguson Flowers, received in the days leading up to today.

At his "small shop" on Texas Avenue, Ferguson said he has sold more than 100 dozen roses. Flower sales increase every year, he said.

And while roses remain the king of Valentine's, guns, tools and electronics have also found a place among romantic gestures.

Stephanie Forest, co-owner of Big Al's Guns, worked romance and George Jones into her store's recent radio advertisement.

She said she thought up the Valentine's Day tie-in between guns and love while driving in her car. She couldn't get the song "The One I Loved Back Then" out of her head and decided it would make a good ad for the sweetheart holiday.

Under the glass counter at Big Al's Guns, Forest has a wide assortment of handguns for that special someone -- male or female.

For women, the suggested guns include a Keltec 9mm, which is the smallest, lightest 9mm on the market, Forest said, and the pink-gripped .22-caliber revolver made by North American Arms.

Big Al's also carries a hammerless Smith & Wesson .38-caliber handgun. The lack of a hammer means it "won't get caught in a purse," Forest explained.

For a man, Forest suggested the Springfield .45-caliber handgun.

Across town, Harbor Freight on MacArthur Drive also was seeing its fair share of customers shopping for the holiday, said Shaun Frazier, store manager.

"It's not anything like a flower shop," he said. "Unfortunately, Valentine's Day is a little lopsided."

Despite the lack of floral items, Frazier said a lot of women had come in to buy gift cards. Popular amounts were $25 to $50, he said.

Frazier suggested gift cards as the best way to go for women who may not know what to get a man. He likened a woman buying a tool for man to a man buying a shade of nail polish for a woman. Neither one really knows what to get, he said

Frazier said some wives or girlfriends also choose to bring their significant others to the store on Valentine's to pick out a gift.

At Trotter's TV & Electronics on Masonic Drive, business was "extremely busy" with sweethearts buying gifts, store Manager Will Trotter said.

Sales included men buying washers and dryers for their wives and one woman buying more than $1,000 worth of speakers as a Valentine's surprise for her husband. Trotter said Valentine's Day has "definitely" led to an increase in his business.

Besides Christmas, Valentine's Day is one of the biggest holidays for Sue Ellen's Leather, Iron and Lace on Jackson Street, said Sue Ellen, store owner. She said Valentine's is a more intimate holiday, and she gets both male and female shoppers.

Business stays steady, Ellen said, from the beginning of February through Valentine's Day. Her store carries lingerie from conservative to leather and also sells lotions and oils. Her most important tip for men picking out lingerie is to know the size. She recommended peeking in an underwear drawer if nothing else.

From gifts with bang to gifts with lace, there is something romantic for everyone. But gifts with petals will continue to sell, Ferguson said.

"Flowers are for sweethearts," he said.