July 30, 2014

Elyria
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Ohio acquiring a taste for Sweetest Day

The love of Sweetest Day is starting to spread.

The unofficial holiday celebrated on the third Saturday of October is finally starting to come into its own and is growing in popularity, according to Cleveland-based card-maker American Greetings.

STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE
A triple-layer chocolate cake with chocolate icing and fresh strawberries is on the menu at Moss’ Prime Rib and Spaghetti House in Elyria for Sweetest Day.

While Ohio, Michigan and Illinois remain atop the company’s Sweetest Day sales charts, 2006 overall sales in the states of Texas, California and Florida ranked among its top 10.

Frank Cirillo, an American Greetings spokesman, attributed part of the growth to the timing of the year.

“Sweetest Day is its own animal,” he said. “We come off these summer months, and there aren’t really that many occasions to come together. It gives you a nice little respite from daily life.”

For years, many incorrectly linked the birth of Sweetest Day to the marketing ploys of greeting card makers, but the holiday can be traced to a 1920s Cleveland-based candy company employee, Herbert Birch Kingston, who campaigned to distribute candy and small gifts to the underprivileged and the forgotten.

Local movie stars of the day such as Ann Pennington and Theda Bara jumped on board, handing out boxes of candy to Cleveland newspaper boys, hospital patients and moviegoers.

As word of the holiday began to spread throughout the region, other states within the Great Lakes area joined in and the love behind the day has been spreading ever since.

“To my knowledge, we’ve always recognized (Herbert Birch Kingston) as the background to Sweetest Day,” Cirillo said. “It’s the inspiration for what the day has become.”

Local restaurants are also seeing the benefits of the holiday, and reservations have begun to slowly fill up tables for two around the county.

“It’s an excuse for people to come out to dinner,” said John D’Amico, owner of Chez Francois Restaurant in Vermilion. “We’re already filled up.”

Owners from Nemo’s Grille in Avon and Moss’ Prime Rib and Spaghetti House in Elyria said they’re also expecting big numbers.

Ron Heldorfer, co-owner of Fratello’s in Avon Lake, said the popularity of the holiday rivals that of Valentine’s Day and is something he didn’t see in New England.

“People in New England don’t even know what Sweetest Day is,” he said. “But it’s big here.”

Contact Stephen Szucs at 336-4016 or sszucs@chroniclet.com.