Upminster businesses prepare for busy Valentine's Day celebrations

Julie and Wayne Jiggins, owners of Sweet Rose Cakery

Julie and Wayne Jiggins, owners of Sweet Rose Cakery - Credit: Daniel Gayne

This Valentine’s Day will be extra special for one Upminster couple – their first as café owners. 

Wayne and Julie Jiggins took over the Sweet Rose Cakery tearoom in St Mary's Lane last May and Wayne said their “feet haven’t touched the ground yet”. 

The 60-year-old former scientific supplies salesman said the café and cakery had been extremely busy since opening and that February 14 would be no exception. 

They are offering a special version of their usual afternoon teas, available to have in the café or takeaway. 

Sweet Rose Cakery's Valentine's afternoon tea

Sweet Rose Cakery's Valentine's afternoon tea - Credit: Sweet Rose Cakery

He said they were “proving to be really popular”, with half of the takeaway packages pre-ordered. 

Their Valentine's afternoon tea will include cupcakes with cupid toppers, heart-shaped cheesecakes and chocolates, red velvet cake and chocolate-dipped strawberries. 

Osteria Due Amici's head chef Mark Wright

Osteria Due Amici's head chef Mark Wright - Credit: Daniel Gayne

At restaurant Osteria Due Amici, in Corbets Tey Road, head chef Mark Wright said Valentine's “can be a bit of a funny one” depending on what day it falls. 

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When it’s on a weekend, it does not make much of a difference for business, he said, but on a Monday – as it is this year – it is a “banker”, guaranteed to pack the house on an otherwise "dead” night. 

While usually they would serve 30 to 40 covers on a Monday, Mark said they have around 120 booked for next Monday, with more expected. 

Mark noted that Tuesday would also be a busy day, adding: "We usually find either side of Valentine's, the people who don’t want to come for a special Valentine's meal come the day before and the day after." 

But while a Monday night Valentine's celebration might be good for the bottom line, it is a tough break for kitchen staff. 

“If it falls on a Tuesday or Wednesday you’ve got the start of the week to prepare for it,” Mark explained.

"On the Sunday we’re really busy doing the roast and then we’ve got to put another menu for around 3 o’clock on that Monday.” 

Other retailers are also expecting a boost. 

Ellie Bates, the 29-year-old manager of Bizara Cards, said they only took in more business on Mother’s Day but said the rush had not yet begun. 

“It’s usually right towards it that it gets busy, now is the calm bit,” she said. 

‘Costs have gone up astronomically’: Florist and café hit by rising energy prices 

Despite the busy Valentine's period, some Upminster businesses were concerned about the impact of rising energy prices.

John Thompson, 62, owner of Studio Florist of Upminster, said Valentine's was their third busiest period of the year, beaten only by Christmas. 

While he said that this year would be “hopefully mega busy”, he noted that his business had been hit by runaway energy costs.  

“Trouble is prices are very high, gas is so expensive in Holland and everything is with gas in nurseries to grow the flowers,” he said. 

“It’s come through to us, prices of roses now on average are fifty pence or a pound more than this time last year”. 

Similarly, Wayne Jiggins at Sweet Rose Cakery said “energy prices are affecting business”. 

“Our energy costs have gone up astronomically because we bake, we have got ovens running all the time,” he said, adding that they could have to raise prices if the situation continued. 

How are people in Upminster preparing for Valentine's Day?

In Corbets Tey Road, locals told the Recorder how, or indeed whether, they would be celebrating Valentine's this year.

Sam Thorn said he had just visited an independent card shop and “got some bits for Valentine’s Day”. 

He said he liked to support local businesses but noted that high street brand Hotel Chocolat was his “go-to” for the special day. 

Sam Thorn

Sam Thorn - Credit: Daniel Gayne

He added that he and his partner “might pop out for a meal or something” but said they “haven’t decided what we are going to do.” 

Mike O’Connor told the Recorder that he does not typically celebrate Valentine’s Day, because his wedding anniversary falls just a few days earlier. 

However, he said that it did not stop him supporting local business. 

Mike O'Connor

Mike O'Connor - Credit: Daniel Gayne

“It’s our wedding anniversary a few days before so we don’t bother with that, but I’m buying flowers for the anniversary a few days before,” he said. 

The 42-year-old said he would support a local florist and “probably go to” an independent restaurant for dinner or lunch. 

He added that he “100 per cent” tries to support local business, explaining: “It’s an ideological thing as well, we both like to support local places if we can."

Mel Grogan

Mel Grogan - Credit: Daniel Gayne

Mel Grogan felt Valentine’s Day was “not really” a big day anymore. 

"I’m married thirteen years” she explained, saying that her and her partner would probably spend the night in. 

“Stay home, chocolates and Netflix,” she said. 

Louise Brown said she would also be spending the evening indoors. 

She said she had not had much time to think about Valentine’s – “we’ve had chicken pox and Covid for the past few weeks” – and said her family would probably order food from a local restaurant on the day. 

“We normally get a takeaway,” she said.