While there's nothing wrong with the classic flowers-and-chocolates combo for your valentine, it's not going to win you any points for originality. Looking for something more unusual and memorable this year?
Here are five quirky gifts that say "I love/like/appreciate you and I have an imagination"--along with their origin stories, from the (mostly) small businesses that make them.
1. Flowers and chocolates 2.0
The recreational use of marijuana is now legal in 10 states. Denver-based company 1906 New Highs--1906 was when the Wiley Act passed, a law that began the prohibition of cannabis--is one venture that has jumped on the opportunity. Since its launch two years ago, the company has stocked more than 200 Colorado dispensaries with its eccentric edibles.
"Valentine's is like Christmas for us," says Peter Barsoom, CEO of 1906 New Highs. A product called High Love--"an aphrodisiac that will make your bed levitate"--is the most popular item come February.
Barsoom says the edible is composed of five aphrodisiac strains of cannabis to enhance pleasure. One aims to reduce stress and increase libido. Another is known as the "Viagra of the Amazon." He claims the strains combine to produce a feeling quickly, "because most people don't have six hours to have a date with an edible."
This year, the folks at 1906 are producing High Love in a "Lover's Edition." It's a big chocolate heart, scored down the middle and each side etched with "me" and "you," packaged in what looks like a regular chocolate box. It retails for $20.
"It's a different take on flowers and chocolate," Barsoom says, pointing out that the chocolate is the edible and the flower is, well, the bud.
2. Inspire some magic with ... meat
Entrepreneur Jon Beekman says he grew up in a family where people expressed themselves with gifts. When it was done well, he says, it was "magical"--like that time his dad made him a hockey goal out of PVC pipe. "It was a way to connect with his son," he says.
Beekman is aiming to spread that magical feeling via his seven-year-old San Mateo, California, business Man Crates.
As the name suggests, the company targets men with quirky gift boxes, ranging in price from $24.99 to $269.99, that include items like camping gear and handyman tools. The Valentine's Day packages emphasize food: There's a salami bouquet and a jerky heart (made with beef, elk, wild boar, or gator jerky).
They're meant to be tongue-in-cheek and surprise the recipient--the packaging is designed to resemble a more classic gift like flowers or chocolate but reveal instead cured pork or salty beef. "The quirkiness is a reflection of our sense of humor," Beekman says.
3. Messages in a box
Missing his fiancée after leaving his native France to study robotics at MIT, Jean Grégoire designed the Lovebox for his chérie, Marie. Most important, she loved it, but it also spurred Jean to turn it into a business.
The $99.99 Lovebox is a wooden totem with a heart on the front. When the heart spins, it signifies that a special someone has sent you a message, via the mobile app. You open the box to view the message, which can incorporate text, stickers, and personalized drawings.
It's proven a valuable tool for long-distance relationships, but isn't exclusive to couples. Many customers buy the box for their children or grandparents. The company, based in Grenoble, France, has partnered with hotels and sports teams. Loveboxes were used to keep morale high among French athletes during the last Winter Olympics.
Grégoire says Valentine's Day sales account for 25 percent of the company's annual revenue. Still, Mother's Day is even bigger.
And though it may be romantic, it hasn't escaped the cynicism of critics. Engadget's Daniel Cooper called it "the silliest way to tell someone you love them since getting a lower back tattoo of their face."
4. A CBD-infused bath
While marijuana laws are cloudy at best, restraints on producing and selling hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD), which is a non-psychoactive cannabis compound, are looser. CBD-infused products are trendy this year, with the extract popping up in everything from beverages to beauty products that promise to help with pain, anxiety, depression, and more. While Curt and Martha Van Inwegen of the Atascadero, California-based Life Elements had been experimenting with the substance in their natural body cures for years, it wasn't until their daughter, now 38, started using CBD about five years ago to help with her anxiety that the couple examined the extract more seriously.
CBD bath bombs quickly became Life Elements' signature product. This Valentine's Day, the company is offering a heart-shaped $43 version. Each bath bomb is individually hand pressed and dosed with 200mg of CBD, a relatively high dose, Curt says. Like the other bombs, it's infused with Himalayan salt, beneficial to the skin, but this edition adds pepper, long thought to be an aphrodisiac. It's to be dropped in the bath for an explosively fizzy sensation. "Netflix and chill is out," reads the product description on the website. "Tell your partner to turn off the tube and get in the tub."
Perhaps surprisingly, the average age of Life Elements' customer base shifted from the 35 to 45 demographic to 46- to 67-year-olds with the introduction of CBD products in February last year. The company positions the products as a way to soothe the body for long-term wellness. "CBD is like really rich, organic compost," Curt says. "The body uses it however it needs it."
5. "Seal It With a Hiss"
Here's a gift only for the valentine with a very good sense of humor: the "Name a Roach" package from the Bronx Zoo.
It's exactly what it sounds like. Name a Madagascan hissing roach after a loved one for $15, or spend $75 and also receive a beanie, a mug, and a roach pin.
"The Bronx Zoo's Name-a-Roach promotion is a lighthearted, fun way to reach out to someone on Valentine's Day," John F. Calvelli of the World Conservation Society (WCS) said in a press release. "Some might say that love is like a roach: elusive, resilient, and sometimes very scary." Proceeds from the brazen name sales help Bronx Zoo and WCS continue their wildlife-saving mission.
If you're not bold enough to send the roach package to a lover, the zoo helpfully suggests alternative recipents: perhaps an ex or a mother-in-law?