The business behind Valentine’s Day

Irma Delgobo, 37, preps a vase of handpicked roses and carnations to sell at her pop-up Valentine’s Day store

Irma Delgobo, 37, preps a vase of handpicked roses and carnations to sell at her pop-up Valentine’s Day store (Staff Photo by Jennifer Tietnguyen)


Valentine’s Day isn’t just flowers and chocolates. For some Hispanic families in Durham, N.C. – it’s a livelihood.

Mayra Hernandez, 21, and her mother, Irma Delgobo, 37, have been setting up their Valentine’s Day stands for over five years. For Delgobo, who runs no other business, this holiday is a special and — most importantly — financially rewarding one for her family.

Their largest location is the one at the corner of Alston Avenue and East Main Street, but they had their handmade products scattered in six other locations throughout the Northeast Central Durham area. They place their vendors strategically, in locations with busy traffic flows and in parking lots easy to pull in to.

Hernandez, her mother and two other family members are all crowded around their makeshift store, ready to make a profit. Despite the cold and windy weather, Hernandez and her family are hopeful.

“We’ve been preparing [for this day] for about three weeks now,” Hernandez said. “Today we started setting up at 5 in the morning, and we’ll probably stay till 7 p.m.”

The products, neatly organized from $5 roses to $65 packages of giant teddy bears, candy and roses, are unpacked from two large U-Haul trucks. Delgobo, who has put in the most money to create the products, aims to double her profits – a feat she has done every year.

“We buy everything ourselves,” Hernandez said, “We make sure the quality is good. For example, we drove all the way to New York just to get this wrapping paper. And this year we got about 500 bears.”

Everybody in her family, she says, pitches in to create the packages. When asked why, of all holidays, they choose to sell products on Valentine’s Day, Hernandez says that it is the “best day to invest money and make a profit out of it.”

According to Forbes Magazine, Hernandez’s sentiments are not far from the truth. This year, the magazine predicts that “the average American will spend $142.31 on gifts.”

The mother and daughter duo receive assistance from friends and family members to man their other selling locations – along Avondale Drive, Hillsborough Road, and Roxboro Road – but the market can be saturated with similar vendors on this holiday.

Miriam Hernandez, 39, of no relation to Myra Hernandez, has been operating her own set of stalls for six years and says that vending is a “very important” business.

“Sometimes, it is necessary for money,” she said, “or if you don’t have a job. But I like being here. I like the people here.” At the end of the day, Miriam Hernandez can be seen hugging her customers, roses in hand.

Venice McKeithen, of Pittsboro, N.C., stopped by to purchase some presents for her grandson and daughter and said that the vendors do a “very good job” with the products and locations they pick.

“I came in here because of that big bear on the side,” McKithen said, smiling. “It’s very convenient, well-put together, and the quality is good.”

Myra Hernandez said being outside in the cold all was “worth it,” after all was said and done.

“It’s a day where everyone is out buying gifts for their loved ones,” she said. “There’s a lot of interesting people who come out.”

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