Natur-Tyme, Syracuse, NY

Owner: Wendy Meyerson

Address: 3160 Erie Boulevard East, Syracuse, NY

Phone: 315-488-6300

Website: http://www.natur-tyme.com

Social Media: Facebook, Twitter

It’s the day before Valentine’s Day and you still haven’t bought a gift yet, so you run off to…. Natur-Tyme? Yes! Natur-Tyme is not just for vitamins and health food. There is so much to love about Natur-Tyme, and they carry a great selection of gifts throughout the year. In fact, I have regularly purchased Christmas and Hanukkah gifts there for years because their gift selection varies from year to year, and holiday to holiday. And, they have a customer loyalty card that allows you to accumulate rewards. If you become a regular customer, remember to come in on the 10th of the month to get an additional 10% off of your purchase. In addition, they send loyal customers a “thank you” gift card every year to say thanks for their business, so the more you spend there, the more you will ultimately save.

If you are looking for a quick, last-minute gift that someone will be excited about, here are some suggestions below:

CANDY. If you want to buy chocolates or other candy for your Valentine, there are many choices at Natur-Tyme, quite a few of which are Valentine-themed. And the great thing is they contain natural ingredients and are high quality, so you know they will taste good and be a little healthier than some other options. All of the food dyes are natural, not synthetic.

SALON GIFT CARDS. The Enhanced Beauty Salon at Natur-Tyme offers hair styling, massage, facials, waxing and makeovers (with packages available). They use natural products and have highly talented staff. I have my hair done there and people are usually surprised when I tell them the price. It’s very reasonable, and they do a fantastic job. I have also had a chair massage at one point, which was only 10 minutes long, but it felt longer because it was a genuinely good massage.

CAFE GIFT CARDS. The cafe is 100% gluten free and has tons of healthy and delicious options. It’s also quick, so it’s a great place to grab lunch during the work day. Smoothies and gelato are available for a treat, so a gift card there would be a fun gift.

BEAUTY PRODUCTS. I love the selection of beauty products available, including Natur-Tyme’s own line of products. Massage oil, essential oils, natural soaps, hair care and other pampering products would be great, and they have items for men and women. If you’re not sure what to buy, ask the sales person for help – they have always given me great advice and will help point you to the right product. They regularly have sales as well, so ask them if the item you’re interested in will be going on sale any time soon.

FOOD. There are lots of choices, so what might make a nice gift? There are a number of locally made food products, including olive oil from Olive, maple syrup, and Better Brittle. Or choose from their selection of teas and coffees.

If you’re already a customer of Natur-Tyme, then none of this was new to you. However, I regularly talk to people who are surprised when I tell them about the variety of products available at Natur-Tyme. They also have a great educational program that offers discussion and information to the community on health-related issues. The highlight of this is their Spring Into Health event at the New York State Fairgrounds, which will be held this year on Sunday, April 7th. If you haven’t visited Natur-Tyme since they moved to their new location, it’s absolutely worth checking it out.

Coleman Florist, Syracuse, NY

Owner: Peter and Joan Coleman

Address: 4000 East Genesee Street, Syracuse, NY

Phone: 315-446-0862

Website: https://www.colemanflorist.com 

Social Media: @syracusecolemanflorist (Facebook); @Colemanflorist

Coleman Florist is the third and last florist that I plan to feature in my pre-Valentine’s Day blog post series, which is soon coming to an end! (Hint – that means you have six days to find your Valentine the right gift!) I chose Coleman Florist for a few important reasons: quality of gift selection, commitment to service, and dedication to the wider community.

Quality is key, and you can count on that here. And Coleman is a great choice if you simply want to order flowers in-person or online, or to pick up a lovely houseplant from their on-site greenhouse. If you want a flower gift that’s longer lasting, they also offer a really cool option called the Flower Lovers Special, which delivers fresh flowers on a monthly basis. That’s a creative option if you want the flowers to keep coming.

Coleman also sells gift baskets of fresh fruit and/or gourmet food. Described in detail here, their fruit baskets are prepared fresh daily from a local fruit importer so that you know the fruit is truly fresh and delicious. There are so many places from which to order fruit baskets, but knowing that you’re getting fruit from a quality vendor is reassuring.

Coleman sells chocolates in the store and online from the Marcellus-based Chocolate Pizza Company, which was featured in my last post. They also offer customers a variety of other choices in their gift shop: silk flowers, fairy gardens, and other non-floral gifts. There are lots of options in addition to traditional flowers, and that makes Coleman stand out.

Although having a nice product selection is important, so is dedication to great service. After reading multiple reviews by satisfied customers, the consistent theme is that Coleman steps in when someone is in a pinch. The customer placed a delivery order last minute, and Coleman came through. The grocery store lost their order, and Coleman stepped up. For whatever reason, they waited until the day before the wedding to order flowers, and yet Coleman came through. That shows true dedication to satisfying customers.

Finally, Coleman stands out for caring about the wider community. I love that they offer a 10% discount to students of Syracuse University, LeMoyne College and Onondaga Community College. It’s an acknowledgement that college students usually have less spending money than employed adults, and also shows dedication to building a loyal customer base over the long term.

Coleman also has a glass recycling program that is both smart business and environmentally friendly. If you have vases sitting around that you aren’t using, make an appointment to have it evaluated in person. If they can use it, Coleman will buy your vase from you by crediting the value towards a floral order or by adding it to your account.

Parking is easy in Coleman’s lot on East Genesee Street in Syracuse, and it’s a pleasant experience to come in and look around. With their wide selection, you’ll be sure to find the right gift for your Valentine.

Chocolate Pizza Company, Marcellus, NY

Owner: Ryan Novak

Address:  3774 Lee-Mulroy Road (Rte. 175), Marcellus, NY

Phone:  315-673-4098

Website: https://www.chocolatepizza.com

Social Media: @chocolatepizzas (Facebook, Twitter); chocolatepizzacompany (Instagram)

It’s exciting when a small, local business hits it big, and that’s what has happened with the Chocolate Pizza Company in the last few years. If you’re not from Central/Upstate New York, there’s a very good chance you have heard of the Chocolate Pizza Company. According to the company website, they have sold products on six continents. The company has been featured in a number of TV specials and major magazines in recent years, and all of these links can be found on their About Us page if you’d like to see more.

If you have lived here for any length of time, though, you know CPC as a place that has been integral to its community, providing prizes for summer reading programs at local libraries and supporting charitable events. Additionally, it won’t be CPC’s fame that lures you in. You’ll come in for the delicious chocolate products available, and leave with something that will make an excellent gift for your sweetheart (or for yourself!).

For Valentine’s Day, there is a nice selection of items available on their Valentine’s Chocolate page. In addition to their signature Chocolate Pizza ® and Peanut Butter Wings ® , there are chocolate towers, gift baskets, wedding and party favors, and other fun chocolates available for purchase.

The story of the current owner, Ryan Novak, is available on the website link above (“About Us”), but also worth highlighting here. He started off washing dishes for the business when he was 15. In 2010, when he was only 21 years old, he became the owner of the company. Ryan has expanded CPC’s brand recognition and made it internationally known. That doesn’t reduce its appeal to the locals, since we are lucky enough to be able to purchase it where it’s made. Head over to Marcellus and check out this local treasure!

Backyard Garden Florist, Fayetteville, NY

Located at Lyndon Corners (near Dewitt Wegmans), with several parking spaces on two sides of the building

Owner: Nino Gagliano; Manager: David Valentine

Address: 6895 East Genesee Street, Fayetteville, NY

Phone: 315-445-0530

Website: https://backyardgardenflorist.com

Social Media: @backyardgardenflorist (Facebook)

On a day where the temperatures are sub-zero, wouldn’t it be lovely to imagine yourself surrounded in lush, fragrant flowers? Considering that my Christmas amaryllis just died, and my outdoor thermometer says it’s currently -4 degrees Fahrenheit, the timing seems especially right for me to review Backyard Garden Florist in Fayetteville. I could use some flowers right about now!

If you are looking for convenience, their website makes it incredibly easy to order flowers. If you’re looking for something that isn’t available on the website, I recommend calling to see if they can get it. This close to Valentine’s Day, it may be necessary to pick up flowers in person (call to ask), but if you live nearby, the location is convenient and has several parking spaces, so picking up a bouquet shouldn’t be too difficult.

As I mentioned in my Whistlestop Florist post, I did not get married in the Syracuse area, and I have not planned any large events here, so I had to rely on feedback from others. I received several recommendations for Backyard Garden Florist, and have read multiple online reviews. The storefront is inviting and has a small but nice selection of garden items or flower pots.

You can read about the owner Nino Gagliano and manager David Valentine on Backyard Garden’s website’s About Us page. Clearly this is an experienced florist that pays attention to trends in design and provides a personal touch. Customer reviews are mostly glowing. The only negative review that I found was related to price, but I think that most people who are used to buying flowers at the grocery store will find a professional florist’s prices to be high. You pay for what you get, and quality florists can naturally be expected to charge an appropriate price. A few other reviewers noted that they found Backyard Garden’s prices to be comparable with other high-quality florists in the area, and my review of their online pricing confirms this for me.

If you are in the market for a wedding florist, Backyard Garden has received Wedding Wire‘s Couples’ Choice award twice, and has earned over 34 five-star reviews, which can be found on the link provided. There are multiple glowing reviews to be found on The Knot as well.

Diana Jewelers, Liverpool, NY

President: Betsy Palladino-Blasland

Address: Lakeshore Drive-In Plaza (Old Liverpool Road), Liverpool, NY

Phone: (315) 457-1050

Website: www.dianajewelers.com

Social Media: @diana.jewelers (Facebook)

Diana Jewelers is celebrating its 60th year in business. One reason for its success is the devotion of its owner and staff to providing great service. As owner Betsy Palladino-Blasland told me on a snowy January morning, her motto is “service, not sales,” and that’s what brings her loyal customers back. It should also be what brings you in the door if you haven’t visited. There are plenty of gorgeous items to purchase in the store (with remounted and customized options available, too – more on that later). But even if you’re on a budget, the range of prices will keep you from running away screaming.

As I mentioned in my earlier blog post on Manlius Jewelry & Repair, many people are scared of entering jewelry stores because they have had the unpleasant experience of walking in with a budget, and leaving feeling like they can’t afford anything nice. It’s a terrible feeling, but not one you will have at Diana’s.

First, I would like to focus on Diana Jewelers’ remounting service, since I think there are a number of my readers who may not know what this means. If you have old heirloom jewelry that isn’t your style, but it is still special to you (or valuable), bring it in to Diana Jewelers to see what magic they can work. Their Facebook site is filled with examples of items they have made on a custom basis using old stones and gold/silver as scrap metal to re-fashion old jewelry into something new. Using the old stones and metal will also give you a piece of jewelry that costs less than if it were purchased new because you are providing the materials.

Next, I have to feature this necklace Betsy had specially designed for those of us who love living in the Syracuse area: the Syracuse Tipp Hill Light necklace. Thank you to Betsy for allowing me to share a photo! It’s available in Sterling Silver, gold plate or 14K gold, with either genuine stones or synthetic stones, so there is a wide range of pricing on this gorgeous piece of jewelry.

By the register, I was excited to see “allergy free” earrings by Concepts for Sensitive Ears. Diana’s also carries a line of jewelry that is high quality (and therefore less allergenic) for children.

If you’re looking for a nice Valentine’s Day gift, you can find something of heirloom quality at Diana Jewelers, or you can find something from $25 on up. I did not forget the “0” – yes, only $25 and up! Their catalog is available on the website, and featured items appear on their Facebook page. I will mention a few highlights here. Off the Cuff bracelets are beautiful, inexpensive, and adjustable. There are currently several Mexican silver bracelets, earrings and necklaces available containing miniature, alpine flowers encased in glass, made by Krystyna’s Silver (handmade in Mexico). There are some lovely pendants and bracelets for sale from Belle eToile (each bracelet takes one month to make!). If you purchase an Angelica bracelet, a portion of the proceeds are donated to autism research. Currently on display near the front, you will find jewelry by Korite, which is made with Ammolite, cut from the fossilized shells of ammonites, sea creatures that lived 240 – 66 million years ago. Some other popular items for Valentine’s Day include Elle sterling silver jewelry, charm bracelets (traditional and cuff style), and items by Philip Gavriel.

For those thinking of buying an engagement ring for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, Diana’s will help you pick out something new, or sparkle up a family heirloom diamond ring, or take the stones out of old family heirlooms and create a newly designed remounted engagement ring – the possibilities are endless. And after she says yes, come back with your fianceé and have the ring resized within the day.

If you are coming from the Village of Liverpool, Diana Jewelers will be harder to see from the road, but pull into the Lakeshore Drive-In Plaza on the right. If you’re coming from the south on Old Liverpool Road, keep an eye out for it on the left in the shopping plaza. There is plenty of parking, including a few spots reserved for customers of Diana Jewelers. Enjoy your visit!

Whistlestop Florist, East Syracuse, NY

Address: 6283 Fremont Road, East Syracuse, NY

Phone: 315-656-2236 or 1-800-330-2236

Website: http://www.whistlestopflorist.com

Social Media: @whistlestop.florist (Facebook); @Syrweddings (Twitter)

The front entrance on Old Fremont Road; enter the parking lot from Fremont Road

I’ll start off this post by admitting that I rarely purchase flowers for the inside of our home. As a person with allergies who also loves flowers, I tend to purchase flowering plants for our yard instead, and I always buy flowering plants that aren’t too fragrant. However, I have found that flowers purchased from a high-quality florist tend to bother my allergies far less than the cheaper bouquets you can pick up at the grocery store. And they usually last longer.

Furthermore, I grew up and was married in New Jersey, so I haven’t yet had the opportunity to interview florists in Central New York for a wedding or other big event. As a result of my relative inexperience with local florists, this blog post required some additional research.

After visiting a few local florists, and after reading multiple Google and Facebook reviews, I narrowed it down to three florists, and visited each of them. Upon entering Whistlestop, I knew this was the florist I would feature first.

It’s called Whistlestop because of its proximity to the rail yards in East Syracuse, which may make it easier to find. The store is nestled into a beautiful old building just north of the bridge over the rail yards. Look for the sign below on Fremont Road to find the entrance to the parking lot.

Look for this sign on Fremont Road to find the entrance to the parking lot

The entire store is tastefully decorated and designed to make you feel right at home. The scent of flowers was pleasant and not at all overpowering for this sensitive girl. They carry a nice selection of gifts to accompany flowers, as well as lovely silk flowers and dried lavender.

Being a snowy January day, the lighting wasn’t ideal for a great picture even in a room with several sky lights, but I’d still like to show the picture below. This is one of Whistlestop’s indoor plant rooms with seating for reviewing flowers for events, such as weddings. So much care has clearly been put into the atmosphere of every room in the store. For me, that’s a sign that they have not just the technical know-how but also the artistic flair to make flowers really stand out.

Whistlestop has a personal touch that was clear from the first moment I walked in. The store clerk asked me if I needed help, and then gracefully allowed me to browse when I said I was just looking. And when I made my purchase, he thanked me by name, having looked at my credit card. It may seem like a small thing, but I take it as a sign that a store cares about my business when they make the effort to learn my name.

And if you are in the market for a wedding or other large event, I noticed that they have received high ratings from some well-known reviewers. Whistlestop has been awarded five stars from Wedding Wire’s Couples’ Choice Awards for several years running, including their awards for 2019. They have also been selected for The Knot’s Best of Weddings, and were a featured teleflora florist on The Knot in 2012.

The constant theme in all of Whistlestop’s online reviews is that this store cares about its customers. My experience only reinforced this feeling. Ordering online is extremely easy, and they deliver throughout the Central New York area, so even if Whistlestop isn’t close to home or work, purchasing flowers from them would be very convenient.

The Wine House, Manlius, NY

Owners: Tim and Sarah Buckles

Address: 8240 Cazenovia Road (Rte. 92), Manlius, NY

Phone: 315-682-0784

Website: http://www.thewinehousenewyork.com

Social Media: @TheWineHouseNY on Twitter; The Wine House New York on  Facebook

Whenever I enter a wine store, I can’t help but hear Billy Joel’s “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” in my head (“A bottle of White… a bottle of Red… perhaps a bottle of Rosé instead…”). That song keeps popping into my head as I prepare to write this entry, so I am listening to it while writing this blog post, and I invite you to pull it up if you have it digitally or on a CD (or better yet, on vinyl!). After all, it’s a good song for anyone, regardless of your level of satisfaction with your love life. And wine is a nice accompaniment to a dinner for either one or two on Valentine’s Day!

The Wine House in Manlius is tucked into a small shopping center near the Nice & Easy and across from True Value hardware. Tim and Sarah Buckles opened the store in September 2006, and they do have plenty of Red, White, and Rosé, as well as sparkling wines. There is also a nice selection of spirits for those who prefer something besides, or in addition to, wine.

The Wine House searches for great wines that aren’t overpriced, and they offer formal and informal tastings for interested customers. On Thursday evenings from 6:30 – 8:00 pm, there are complimentary sit-down tastings with an expert providing information about the wines. From 4 – 6 pm on Saturdays, they offer informal tastings of 3 – 5 wines for customers to taste while browsing the store.

As I mentioned, the store also carries a selection of liquor. For my upcoming Bunco night, I am looking to serve a cocktail, but since I don’t make cocktails often, I needed some suggestions. The store clerk recommended a bottle of Hendricks Gin from Scotland, which I purchased and later sampled, and it may have kicked out Bombay Sapphire from its long-running title as “my favorite gin.” According to the website, they are known for selling “high-end Single Malt Scotch.” Whiskey isn’t my thing, so I can’t personally vouch for it, but if you’re a fan of Scotch, it would be worth checking out.

There is a bottle for just about every price point at The Wine House. At the front of the store, you will find the 2 for $20 wine bottles, and they are all good wines, not just the wines they’re trying to move out. A little further in, there are 2 for $30 bottles, and then wines along the walls and center shelf are sorted by type and within a wide range of pricing. And better yet, if you request a Loyalty Card, you will receive a discount EVERY time you make a purchase: 10% off of wine (15% off 6 bottles or more), and 5% off any spirits.

The Wine House will also fulfill special orders whenever possible. On that point, I’d like to share my favorite experience with The Wine House. Fifteen years ago, my husband and I traveled to Napa Valley for a few days after touring UC-Berkeley. We were dating at the time, and he planned the Napa Valley winery portion of the trip based on my preferences. He selected wineries that he thought I would like.

The day before we went to Napa, I ate some Dungeness Crab Chowder in San Francisco that made me horribly ill for days. My stomach felt so terrible that tasting wine was simply out of the question, but I was happy to be the designated driver and let him taste the wines on my behalf. There was one type of wine from Luna Vineyards that he really liked, and although it was pricey and our budget was tight at the time, he splurged to buy a bottle so that I could taste it when I was feeling better. We saved it for a special occasion, which ended up being our first wedding anniversary, and the wine was delicious.

A few years later, I wanted to find him a similar bottle from Luna for his birthday. I had just about given up when I tried The Wine House. Although they didn’t carry this exact wine, they were able to order it for me from the vineyard. That was a very nice birthday surprise, and I have always remembered how they went out of their way to help me get a special bottle for him.

That personalized touch, as well as their continued effort to provide wines and spirits that taste good and fit a variety of budgets, make The Wine House an absolute Local Treasure.