Valentine's Day shopping guide

‘Tis better to give than get dumped
Valentine’s Day can be a sneaky, if not downright dangerous, holiday. It has a way of rushing you on the 12th, taking you down in the tackle on the 13th, and -- if you fail to deliver the gifty goods -- knocking you out on the 14th. Fortunately for you, you’re still in the 7-day-advance safety zone, with enough time to perfect your game plan. To help you avoid an embarrassing fumble, we’ve scoured SF’s best gift and novelty stores for some guaranteed-to-please gift ideas. So read carefully and choose wisely, and when the big day comes, you could be well on your way to scoring.

The Classics

Church Street Flowers
This floral boutique is no stranger to the Guardian’s Best of the Bay Issue, as it has taken the title five out of the past six years. You can’t go wrong with the old red rose standby, with its universal message of true love. But if you want to get a bit more creative and/or specific, ask the staff for their recommendations. (For example, try red-tipped yellow roses, which mean the giver is falling in love, or a red and white bouquet, which is a symbol of unity.) The shop does deliver, so there’s no excuse for allowing your paramour to leave work envious or empty-handed.
212 Church St, SF. (415) 553-7762,

Bittersweet, the Chocolate Café
Buying your Valentine’s gifts at Bittersweet doesn’t only benefit your V-Day date; it gives you a chance to indulge in some of the shop’s sinful creations while you’re there. Check out the vast array of Belgian, Swiss, Dutch, or Italian chocolates, bound to appeal to the international lover – er, chocolate lover -- in your life. (And for folks who are solo and sad about it this Valentine’s Day, try one of Bittersweet’s rich hot chocolates to fill the void.)
2123 Fillmore St, SF. (415) 346-8715,

Think buying jewelry has to mean DeBeers and dollar signs? Think again. This little Noe Valley treasure is the perfect alternative for buying unusual (and affordable) amorous adornments. Here, you’ll undoubtedly find the owner, Guatemalan-born Gilbertina Guarini, painstakingly stringing together her latest one-of-a-kind design while perched behind the counter-cum-workspace. And since Guarini’s nature-themed pieces that are not only beautiful themselves, but are beautifully showcased by color and gemstone, visiting this Valentine haven is as easy on the eyes as it is on your wallet.
3961 24th St, SF. (415) 206-0704

Carol Doda’s Champagne and Lace Lingerie Boutique
San Francisco icon, the Condor’s own Carol Doda, has the perfect the recipe for a steamy Valentine’s date: a bottle of bubbly and a little lace number from her Union street boutique. You might have to go elsewhere for the champagne, but this is your one-stop-shop for intimate wear – for him and for her. And don’t worry if your date isn’t on the Don’t-Eat-Diet: the pinup queen’s specialty is still those bodacious plus sizes.
1850 Union St, SF. (415) 776-6900

Distinctive and Deviant

Does your honey already own a gemstone in every color of the gay pride rainbow? Or does your lover only wear jewelry that could double as sailing rope? Either way, if it’s jewelry you want, but convention you don’t, try making some yourself at Beadissimo, the holy grail of bead stores. The beads and stringing options come in every shape, size and color. The workstation in the back boasts every beading tool the savvy professional could want. And if you’re a clumsy novice, there’s a dexterous, young staff just waiting to help you figure out what to do with all this bounty. (Workshops also are offered year round.)
1051 Valencia St, SF.

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