Ahwatukee lovers looking for unusual ways to spoil their sweetheart on Valentine’s Day can spice up the occasion with cooking classes or even bringing home a furry friend for some snuggle time.
Many area businesses and organizations are offering out-of-the-box gifts instead of candy and flowers found at retail chains.
Several provide experiences to help couples create memories while others sell handmade or locally manufactured artwork, jewelry and apparel and still others offer a chance to help people or animals.
The Arizona Animal Welfare League Adoption Center in the Chandler Fashion Center has scheduled a Valentine’s Day Slumber Party.
People can pick out a dog at the no-kill shelter any time after 10 a.m., keep them for the night and return them the next morning. It gives people a chance to see if they want to give the dog a “fur-ever” home.
“Animals really show off in a home,” said Michael Morefield, welfare league spokesman. “That’s when you really get to see their true personality.”
The dog Slumber Party is free and Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA will provide food, a leash and a collar, along with any medicine if the animal needs it.
More than 70 percent of people who take an animal home for a Slumber Party end up adopting it, Morefield said.
On the more human side, couples can bond and learn new culinary skills at RA Sushi Bar restaurants in Ahwatukee, Tempe and Mesa.
The restaurant’s “Roll of Attraction” is an aphrodisiac sushi rolling class for couples at 8 p.m. today, Feb. 7.
RA Sushi said salmon and other oily fish have omega-3 fatty acids known to increase circulation while the iodine in seaweed in sushi rolls, has vitamin E, which elevate hormones and one’s passion.
Another way to feed one’s significant other in a healthy way is with a special dinner at 24 Carrots, 1701 East Guadalupe Road in Tempe, where several gluten-free and vegan dishes are on the menu.
The entrée is a choice of either gluten-free marinated and grilled cauliflower steak or seared house-made seitan steak served with classic steakhouse sides. The Valentine’s Day dinner is $24.95 per person.
“This year, we are showcasing how many delicious vegan options are available for Valentine’s Day with this very special menu,” 24 Carrots owner Sadhana Raj said. “We love providing options for vegans or folks who follow a gluten-free diet on very special occasions.”
Auric Photography, owned by Katherine Bacon of Ahwatukee, is offering Valentine’s Day specials on sweetheart sessions and boudoir/portrait photos through Feb. 14.
“I interview all of my couples and figure out what they want,” Bacon said. “I try to focus on candids and posing my couples to where they feel comfortable. I really encourage my couples to make it a full date…That’s what makes it unique.”
Those who want to give their partner a sultry surprise could pose for the boudoir/portrait photos. Often women will choose to pose in lingerie and pretty robes for the boudoir photos, and Bacon said she takes steps to make them feel comfortable.
“I think it’s very important to stay on the classy side of things,” she said. “I just want to create something that their sweetheart’s going to love and I want them to love it, too
Women can get their man pampered at Wet Shaving Products in Chandler, which makes and sells shaving products, lotions, small batch soap, balms and other grooming products for men.
“Our favorite gifts for guys this Valentine’s Day include a great-smelling cologne,” Wet Shaving Products founder and owner Lee Tyau said. “Beard oil gift packs are perfect for the bearded guys. Solid colognes are hip, new and great for the guy who likes to travel.”
Lovers whose significant others are globally conscious can find handmade jewelry, kitchenware and other goods by artisans around the world at the Feed My Starving Children’s MarketPlace in its Mesa location at 1345 S. Alma School Road.
The Christian nonprofit organization provides nutritionally strong meals formulated for malnourished children in other countries.
Some popular items for Valentine’s Day gifts include mugs and artificial daises made by artists in Haiti and heart keychains by artisans in Swaziland.
There also are heart-shaped ornaments and chocolate, friendship bracelets, T-shirts, banana leaf cards with the message “I Love You,” coffee and necklaces with a metal heart-shaped pendant, said Meghan Borner, a sales associate for Feed My Starving Children.
“It’s a gift that gives back,” Borner said. “You end up getting a unique gift, you’re supporting artisans around the world and you’re also supporting the feeding program.”
Shoppers also can discover rare jewelry, clothes, furniture and even lawn mowers at Blue Leaf Estate Auctions, which holds weekend auctions in people’s homes around the Valley.
Diamond earrings and rings, along with Rolex watches and sterling silver bracelets and necklaces with turquoise and other jewels popular in the Southwest, are often found at the auctions, said Blue Leaf Estate Auctions co-owner Stephanie Garcia.
“You’ll definitely find something unique, unusual, just not your run-of-the-mill that you’re going to buy in the store,” Garcia said. “There’s many different ways to say ‘I love you.’”
State Forty Eight in Chandler offers lots of T-shirts, hoodies, onesies, hats and other casual clothes with the State Forty Eight logo on it in honor of Arizona, which became the 48th state on Feb.14, 1912.
“The cool thing about Valentine’s is (it’s) the same day as Arizona’s birthday,” said State Forty Eight co-owner and founder Mike Spangenberg. “If anyone likes T-shirts or hats and they love Arizona, we have the perfect gift for them.”
Shoppers feeling the love for Arizona and the Southwest can also find lots of unusual gifts at Sibley’s West in downtown Chandler, which sells gift items from only Arizona suppliers.
Some possible Valentine’s Day include Arizona Cowboy Cactus Salsa, all-natural lotion in a solid bar, prickly pear cactus taffy, Cerreta Candy Company’s fine chocolates in Western shapes and a stoneware heart-shaped bowl.
To relieve your significant other’s stress, The Crypt on East Ray Road, Ahwatukee, offers a Rage Room, a place where people can blow off steam by throwing vases, glasses and other items in a safe environment with protective gear.
The “Let’s Be Friends” package for $30 allows people to smash 10 small items, while the “Cheaper Than Counseling” package for couples gives them 12 small items, four medium things and two electronics to break for $48.
“Committed” allows lovebirds to vent their frustrations by destroying 10 small items and four medium items for $36. Those prices are offered on a regular basis for two people to visit the Smash Room at a time.
“Relationships are not always roses and chocolates,” said John Keating, owner of The Crypt. “Sometimes there are frustrations and our rage room offers a fun way to blow off some of that steam.”