SHOP TALK : The Romantic and the Risque : From chocolates to flowers to lingerie, every Valentine's Day gift can send a different message.


We can practically hear the theme from "Jaws" as we move closer and closer to Valentine's Day.

As we noted last week, Valentine's Day is perhaps the most critical of gift-giving occasions, because each gift makes at least half a dozen statements. Last week, if you remember, we concentrated on silly and cute gifts. They tend to be less risky than serious gifts.

This week, we get risky.

As serious gifts go there is a wide range. You can take your sweetheart on a trip to the Bahamas, ask for his or her hand in marriage, purchase gold jewelry. We decided, however, to stick with less expensive, yet still sentimental items, like elegant chocolates, flowers, singing telegrams, and the like.

But first, underwear.

We were contacted by the Lingerie for Less chain, which has local outlets in Oxnard, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, regarding its line of Valentine's gifts for him and her. The chain prides itself on selling brand name items at prices 20% to 70% less than department stores. So even if you mess up and get the wrong gift (maybe something too suggestive too soon in the relationship?) at least you have cash left for a nice apology gift.

Because we blush easily there are only a couple of items at Lingerie for Less that we are able to mention.

For him there is the oh-I-hope-the-guys-at-work-never-find-out-I'm-wearing-these 100% silk boxer shorts with hearts. They come in black, red and white and are priced at $9.99 each. For her, they have the same boxer shorts for the same price, or the more risque 100% cotton thong underwear with heart trimming, for $4.99 a pair.

Underwear and lingerie are rather private, of course. If you would like to display your affection more publicly, it's hard to beat the singing telegram.

Partygrams, a business based in Thousand Oaks, offers several options. The messenger can wear a red satin heart, a cupid costume with wings and gold bow and arrow, or a tuxedo. Regardless, each singer performs a medley of love songs that lasts about 10 minutes, and brings along two of the following gifts: balloons, champagne, chocolate and flowers. Cost is $70 to $75 depending on travel time, and messengers will travel throughout the county.

Stephanie Main, owner of Partygrams, said Valentine's Day is her biggest day of the year, so the earlier you reserve a telegram the better. Call 497-0582 or 643-9534.

If you are the more subtle type, flowers are always a good bet. This year, we understand, the recent heavy rains have put somewhat of a damper on the quality of local rose crops. But stores will be carrying them, nonetheless.

We picked out a sampling of florists to see what they had going for Valentine's Day.

At the Camarillo Flower Shop, you can get a single rose for $5 or a bouquet of mixed spring flowers in a heart-shaped basket for $25. The store also offers various candy and gift baskets for $15 to $75. And beginning on Valentine's Day, the store will feature a frequent-buyer promotion. After 10 purchases, the dedicated shopper will receive a dozen roses free.

Many florists in the area, like Flowers By Paulann in Oxnard, will be featuring floral arrangements from FTD and other flower services. Paulann's will carry a basket of mixed flowers, hearts and a little stuffed bear for $30.

And at Loma Vista Florist in Ventura, they will be selling candy, champagne, gourmet baskets and fruit baskets, in addition to various flower arrangements. Prices for the mixed flowers begin at $25. Single roses will go for $5 to $5.50.

If your sweet is more into sweets, there is always the traditional chocolates. You can pick up a heart-shaped box of them just about anywhere candy is sold, but for more personal chocolate gifts, you will need to check out a specialty chocolate store.

Last week we stopped by Pink Moment Sweets in Ojai, where we found a long-stemmed chocolate rose bud (1 ounce) for $2.95 and a beautiful chocolate rose in a chocolate vase (3 ounces) for $9.95.

Over at Ventura's elegant Atelier de Chocolat they had a tremendous selection of Valentine's specialty items including a white-chocolate box with a cupid on it, with seven pieces of chocolate inside, for $14.95. A chocolate heart-shaped box was $3.59.

And if you really want to go out on a limb and make a statement, you can go for the full-size, hollow chocolate champagne bottle for $34.95. It can be filled with chocolates, jewelry, flowers, or maybe even underwear.

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