Chocolate molded into roses and hearts. Cupcakes. Cookies. Cake pops. Strawberries, cherries and even bacon covered in chocolatey goodness.

The saying, “The quickest way to a person’s heart is through the stomach” comes to life this Valentine’s Day at two downtown Brainerd businesses, especially for those with a sweet tooth.

American consumers are expected to spend more than $2 billion on candy and treats for that special someone on Feb. 14, according to the National Retail Federation. Those high numbers mean extra work this week for downtown Brainerd businesses like Fancy Pants Chocolates and Knotty Pine Bakery.

Confectionery sugar candy hearts and chocolates are mixed together on trays for sale at Fancy Pants Chocolates Wednesday, Feb 12, in downtown Brainerd. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
Confectionery sugar candy hearts and chocolates are mixed together on trays for sale at Fancy Pants Chocolates Wednesday, Feb 12, in downtown Brainerd. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Heart-shaped boxes in different shades of pinks and reds line the walls of Fancy Pants, as the smell of various flavors of chocolates waft from the kitchen and behind the counter, filling the store on Laurel Street.

It’s not quite like the Christmas season, which lasts about six weeks, owner Nancy Williams said as she readied her shop for the day Wednesday, Feb. 12. But it’s busy all the same.

“It’s that six weeks into two or three days,” she said of the preparations for Valentine’s Day.

Special orders start coming in about two weeks before the holiday, requesting Williams’ specialty Valentine’s molded chocolates, homemade truffles and chocolate-covered fruit treats. She packages up heart-shaped boxes and sends them throughout Minnesota, the U.S. and even around the world. Williams has shipped her sought-after chocolates and goodies as far away as Germany and New Zealand.

The chocolate truffles with raspberry, mint, and other sweet fillings are sold year-round at Fancy Pants. Chocolate-covered strawberries are available all year by request, but will be on hand around Valentine’s Day, along with chocolate-covered bacon, a holiday novelty Williams only creates for Feb. 14.

“My son had found some down I think in Illinois and brought it back,” she said of the idea for chocolate-covered bacon. “He was on a trip and brought it back and said, ‘Can you do this?’ So we tried it.”

And it’s been a hit for the holiday, though Williams reminds customers it has to be refrigerated and can’t sit out for long periods of time like other chocolates.

Marie Kirsch displays Valentine's Day goodies at Knotty Pine bakery Wednesday, Feb. 12, in downtown Brainerd. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
Marie Kirsch displays Valentine's Day goodies at Knotty Pine bakery Wednesday, Feb. 12, in downtown Brainerd. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Across the street from Williams, Knotty Pine Bakery offers even more treats, especially for those Valentine’s shoppers looking for festive baked goods to help express their admiration this year.

Owner Marie Kirsch serves up pastel-colored conversation heart sugar cookies with sayings like “Hug me” and “Be mine,” along with cupcakes and cake pops decorated with red and pink adornments.

Her Valentine’s packages of cupcakes feature six unique flavors: strawberries and cream, pink champagne, sinfully chocolate, red velvet, chocolate chip and Kirsch’s take on a chocolate Hostess cupcake.

“It's just fun doing something different with the seasons, and I definitely can tell the customers appreciate coming in and seeing what's new here in the bakery too,” Kirsch said. “So I think we have as much fun as the customers do, seeing the different holiday treats coming out.”

For Williams, the difference in treats isn’t a big change, and it’s mostly business as usual.

“I just like working with the chocolate,” she said.

No matter what kinds of treats are on the Valentine’s Day gift list, Brainerd area businesses likely have them covered. Cub Foods offers chocolate-covered strawberry cheesecake as the flavor of the month, while Dairy Queen has frozen goodies like heart-shaped ice cream cakes. Walmart has it’s center-aisle display of various festive baked goods, and for those who look beyond sweet treats, SuperOne Foods is running specials on date night dinner entrees like lobster tail, snow crab and rib eye steaks.

Whether the taste buds crave sweet or savory, candies or seafood, options for Valentine’s Day treats abound in Brainerd and Baxter.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.