There are some people who think grabbing a box of candy and flowers from the local supermarket is fine for a last minute Valentine’s Day present. For those who wish to send a sweeter message, here are a few ideas to help make a Valentine sweetheart feel truly special.

The Le Labo scent kit // photo by Michelle Sieling.


First, there’s Press: Works on Paper, located on 22nd Street near Dolores Street in Noe Valley. The store’s name says it all, as it carries all sorts of printed material, like works published by small presses, vintage, out of print and rare fashion, photography and art titles. In addition, there are tools to create visual or written works of art on paper, like new and vintage office supplies, bookbinding supplies and appropriately enough, a red Olivetti Valentine typewriter.

Creative types can make unique Valentines with one of the special katazome papers ($22). There’s also a selection of letterpress cards ($5) and vintage greeting cards ($3) for those too lazy to make their own. Or, one can express how he or she feels with someone else’s words, perhaps with a book of poems from one of the shop’s featured Bay Area authors, like Things I Say to Pirates on Nights When I Miss You by Keely Hyslop ($12).

San Francisco Flower Mart

Continuing with the DIY theme, shoppers can skip the pricy and predictable dozen red roses and put together a one-of-a-kind bouquet with blooms found at the San Francisco Flower Mart in SOMA. Though technically a wholesale market, it opens its doors to the public Monday-Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. More than 50 vendors carry cut flowers, greens, foliage and blooming plants, silk products and any floral supply imaginable to create a budding work of art.

Perfume is another common Valentine’s Day gift, but people have very specific likes and dislikes, so it would be terrible to come home with an offending scent. Le Labo on Fillmore in Pacific Heights makes the procurement of perfumes a little more personal by formulating and bottling a selected fragrance only at the time of purchase. This means the essential oils and alcohol are not mixed until a scent is ordered.

The freshly bottled scent is then affixed with a personalized label bearing any message of one’s choosing, like “XOXO.” The fragrances, like “Vetiver 46”, “Fleur D’Oranger 27” and “Ambrette 9”, are vegan, unisex and cruelty-free, and range in price from $58 for 50ml to $220 for 100ml. There are also a few home products including candles ($70), handmade scented notebooks ($50) and detergents ($45). Bonus: returning customers get 20 percent off refills.

Le Labo featured scents

To turn up the heat, there’s Les Cent Culottes on Polk Street in Russian Hill. Better than a trip to Vickie’s Panty Palace, Les Cent Culottes carries more high-end French lingerie than the store’s translated name, “100 Panties”, suggests. The shop is packed with sexy underthings from brands like Lise Charmel, Elixer and Chantelle.

Come-hither choices include a racy black lace bra and garters from Simone Perle ($110 and $125, respectively), Lejaby panties ($80) and hosiery from DIM ($20). For the more demure, there are cozy pajamas and fuzzy robes from Canat ($145 and $160, respectively). Men wanting to feel a little “Frenchy”, too, can choose from a small selection of undergarments, like a two-pack of blue striped cotton boxers from Eminence ($50). And if the lingerie works its Valentine’s magic, Les Cent Culottes hosts bridal shower and bachelorette parties at the store.

Very few people would pass up a box of chocolates, and in this city, it would be a shame to overlook one of the local artisan brands like Recchiuti Confections, located in the Ferry Building. Infused with herbs like fresh lavender, tarragon and lemon verbena, these chocolates will make an impression on any sweetie with a sweet tooth. There are traditional choices for this holiday like the Valentine’s Hearts and Arrows Indulgence gift box ($95), the XO box ($40) or the Valentine’s 16 piece box ($44), but for something a little different, try the beer, whiskey or wine pairing boxes ($25 each), a S’mores kit ($23) or dark chocolate with fruit choices like key lime, apples or pears ($23 each).

More adventurous couples should head over to Leather Etc on Folsom Street in SOMA for its selection of leather bondage toys, fetish clothing and accessories. Shoppers can find all types of suspension gear, restraints, collars and cuffs, ranging from the tens to hundreds of dollars, meaning there’s something for any bondage preference and budget. This includes clothing, too, like black PVC skirts ($29), buckle front halter tops ($59), plaid bras ($19) and leather hot pants ($79). With all those choices, the only thing holding a couple back is their imagination (and maybe restraints).