Vancouver is for lovers. And you can’t spell Vancouver without — wait, there’s no ‘L’ in Vancouver. Okay, you can’t spell Vancouver or lover without o-v-e-r.
Vancouver is the 12th-most romantic city in the United States, according to online retailer Amazon. It’s more romantic than Portland, Seattle and Las Vegas.
If this all sounds familiar, that’s because it is. This is the seventh year in a row that Vancouver has made the Most Romantic Cities list since Amazon began publishing it annually around Valentine’s Day. In prior years, Vancouver ranked higher on the list. So, in a way, 2016 was one of its least romantic years.
Though Stephanie McNees, owner of Treat in downtown Vancouver, is surprised Vancouver keeps being dubbed one of the most romantic cities, she acknowledged that Valentine’s Day is usually her bakery’s busiest day.
“As far as foot traffic, Valentine’s Day eclipses any other day,” McNees said.
For the last six years, the store has sold conversation heart cookies. They’re heart-shaped shortbread cookies iced with such phrases a ‘Be mine’ and ‘Hug me.’ People have proposed using the cookies, McNees said.
Most romantic U.S. cities
1. San Antonio, Texas
3. Alexandria, Va.
4. Orlando, Fla.
5. Salt Lake City
6. Knoxville, Tenn.
10. Ann Arbor, Mich.
11. Columbia, S.C.
13. Gainesville, Fla.
15. Scottsdale, Ariz.
16. Tampa, Fla.
17. Las Vegas
19. Round Rock, Texas
20. Rochester, N.Y.
Amazon’s ranking, however, is determined using online sales data. The Seattle-based company looked at cities with more than 100,000 residents and per capita purchases of “romance novels and relationship books (both Kindle and print); romantic comedy movies (DVDs and digital); a curated list of romantic music, including artists like Adele, John Legend, Ed Sheeran, Drake, Brad Paisley and Barry White (CDs and MP3 format); as well as the sales of sexual wellness products.”
There are a few hundred cities with populations greater than 100,000, so Vancouver ranks relatively high in romantic Amazon.com purchases.
Locally, romance novels are a hot item at brick-and-mortar bookstore Vintage Books, said owner Becky Milner.
People are often loyal to the genre and specific authors, she said, with some people buying a basket full of romance novels in one shopping trip. Milner said romance books offer readers a specific kind of getaway.
“We all have something we read that’s in our comfort zone,” she said.
Other customers come with notes from counselors or friends about specific relationship advice books. There are a few bookcases worth at Vintage Books.
“We try to make sure we have the ones that are most in demand,” Milner said.
And, don’t forget: The erotic romance novel and trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey” is set briefly on the campus of Washington State University Vancouver. In 2014, “Fifty Shades” was the most checked out eBook, eAudiobook and CD in the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District.
Holly Johnson, manager at Gameplay, a store in Vancouver that rents and sells video game and movies, said people are looking for romance movies all of the time. Customers tend not to be looking for the latest and greatest movies, though. “The Notebook,” an adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ novel, is a popular request and that movie — if you can believe it — is nearly 13 years old.
As one might imagine from the name, February is the biggest sales month for Love Potion Magickal Perfumerie in downtown Vancouver. The store sells products that contain synthetic versions of pheromones, odors said to elicit a reaction from other people. That could mean feeling more attracted toward a person who’s wearing a perfume containing pheromones.
The store sells different blends for different purposes including a bath and body line containing a synthetic version of female copulance “that makes men go insane” and smells like honey, tangerine and ginger, said employee Alexis Powers.
Even if Amazon’s ranking is just about sales data, Powers said there a lot of couple-y things to do in Vancouver, such as romantic strolls along the waterfront and dining at downtown restaurants.
What’s in a name?
There could be something romantic in the name Vancouver.
North Vancouver, B.C. is the third-most romantic city in Canada, Amazon said. Both Vancouvers are named after Capt. George Vancouver, a British explorer who sent crewmen up the Columbia River to map the region.
So, maybe there’s something particularly captivating about this captain? When the Canada Post released a new stamp that featured Vancouver standing aboard a ship, looking toward the horizon it was called “truly a romantic and intimate stamp design.” It looks “as if we’re actually peering over his shoulder and gazing out with him to the barren horizon,” design manager Danielle Trottier said in a 2007 news release.
But Brad Richardson, curator at the Clark County Historical Museum, did some research and couldn’t find anything about the captain’s romantic side. Rather, he found some evidence to the contrary. “A few sources talk about him being a strict disciplinarian as a captain. Also, from what I could tell, he was never married,” Richardson said in an email.
There you have it. Online buyers in Vancouver are among the most romantic, but the city’s namesake? Not so much.