Businesses making the most of double holiday

Why have a day when you can have the weekend?

Why have a day when you can have the weekend?

Restaurants and retailers will spread out the holidays of Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year all weekend as they look past the grim economy for a boost in sales and reservations.

For Circus Cafe owners Colin and Christel MacLean, the Sunday holiday helps ease staffing and planning pressures for the Saratoga Springs restaurant while offering patrons more reservation choices and menu offerings.

“Otherwise, what happens is if [Valentine’s Day] is on a Saturday or Friday, everyone crams it on one day,” Christel MacLean said. “On the service side, it’s nice to have the opportunity to spread it out. The chefs can be more creative when they have three days to carry it over.”

She said the number of reservations for Friday and Saturday compare favorably with Sunday reservations as the restaurant tempts palates with heart-shaped lobster ravioli, prime rib and a tropical vegetarian skewer.

“Any Valentine’s Day is going to be busy no matter what day it falls on,” said Cathy Gatta, spokeswoman for Mazzone Management, which owns and operates several eateries and restaurants in the Capital Region. “The nice thing about it being on a Sunday is that a lot of the restaurants in the area are going to draw people Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night.”

Restaurants are also getting the most out of the holidays by extending hours of operation and in some cases opening up on a day they would otherwise be closed.

Villa Italia Bakery in Schenectady will be open later this weekend and offering speciality items like cupcakes, chocolate strawberries, heart-shaped cakes and pink accents on traditional pastries, according to Jeanette Bowers, director of business development and human resources for the Mallozzi Group.

Bowers said Valentine’s Day is always good for business.

“We staff up with more people and do more prep ahead of time,” she said. “Usually anytime a holiday tends to fall on a weekend, it tends to be busier.”

In addition to Villa Italia, the Mallozzi Group owns and operates Mallozzi’s Ballroom and Catering in Rotterdam, the Belvedere Hotel next door to the ballroom, the Western Turnpike Golf Course in Guilderland, the Italian-American Club on Washington Avenue Extension in Albany and the Brown Derby in downtown Albany.

The Brown Derby is usually not open on Sundays, but the company decided in November not to miss out on a big day, Bowers said.

The 100-seat dining room is already almost sold out for Sunday.

“It’s nice adding that extra day. It’s completely adding all new business,” Bowers said. “We had to make the decision in November. We looked ahead on the calendar and realized it was on a Sunday, so we decided to be open for it and it has proved to be a good decision.”

Gung hei fat choi!

But Valentine’s Day celebrants won’t be the only ones enjoying the color red this weekend, as the Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, will also be commemorated, according to Lining He, president of the Chinese Community Center of the Capital District of New York. Red symbolizes good luck.

People give each other small red envelopes with money inside, go out to restaurants, frequent local Asian markets to prepare feasts for family and friends as well as patronize shops to look for gifts — all of which are a boost to the economy.

“In the Chinese New Year celebration, people have a strong tradition to have a New Year’s Eve feast,” said Lining, who recently made several calls to local restaurants for the occasion and noticed many were booked up already.

Some local promotions for Chinese New Year incorporate the holiday’s focus on fortune and luck, which is associated with the number eight more than any other numeral, he said.

The Asian Supermarket on Colvin Avenue in Albany is offering customers who spend $88 a complimentary ticket to the community center’s New Year celebration Saturday at The Egg. The event is expected to draw nearly 1,000 people.

“Feb. 13 this year and this Friday will be the busiest days for all of them. No matter what market you’re talking about, they’re going to have a line as long as 40 or 50 yards,” Lining said.

Chinese New Year normally results in a spike of consumer spending, he said.

“Some of the families probably spend 20 to 30 percent of their annual spending on Chinese New Year,” Lining said.

According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, there are more than 10,000 Chinese-Americans in the Greater Capital Region area, accounting for one-third of the area’s overall Asian-American population.

The Chinese New Year is also celebrated by other Asian ethnic groups, including Vietnamese, Koreans and Singaporeans, as well as Western families who have adopted Asian children.

“There are hundreds of families with adopted kids from China, Korea and Vietnam. Those families will join Asian-Americans because they want to associate their kids together with the traditions of where they were born,” Lining said.

For the Buffalo Wagon Pan Asian Cuisine & Sushi restaurant in Albany, general manager Dan Guo hopes the weekend will give restaurants reeling from the pressures of decreased consumer spending some relief. He expects to be busy.

“Hopefully, it will help,” he said.

Wally Hart, Fulton County Chamber of Commerce executive director, thinks those who practice or observe Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day may lose out by the holidays both falling on Sunday, “because they’ll be doing two things at once.”

People’s lifestyles will dictate how they celebrate, but whatever they do, businesses that normally are busy on weekends will get an extra bounce, Hart said.

According to the National Retail Federation, people will spend more on pets, classmates, teachers and coworkers for Valentine’s Day this year. Couples are expected to spend slightly less on each other, while family spending will remain the same. The average man will spend $135.35 on Valentine’s Day gifts, while women will shell out only $72.28.

“The gift shops, jewelry stores, flower shops and chocolate places all will see a boost. It affects more than just the restaurants. People will be having parties at home, so they’ll be stopping at liquor and wine stores and food vendors,” Hart said. “As long as they’re spending money, that’s what we want them to do to keep the economy going. If we can just get the weather to cooperate through the weekend, we’ll be happy.”

Categories: Business

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