There was a time when, if you gave your sweetheart a present of chocolates for St. Valentine’s Day, chances were good that Jesse Salwen made the heart-shaped box you gave them in. His business, A. Klein & Co., ceased operation more than a year ago, but Salwen continues to touch real hearts with the shimmery, satiny, and velvety raw materials that he used to turn into millions of cordiform candy boxes per year. His hometown newspaper, The Observer News Enterprise of Newton, NC, reports that Salwen has donated fabrics, ribbons, lace, artificial flowers, cardboard, and plastic items by the truckload to local schools, churches and community groups for whatever creative uses they wish to put them to. According to the story, Salwen estimates that what he has donated so far is worth several hundred thousand dollars—and there is still more to be given away. It’s not surprising that his inventory of sturdy stocks and fancy trimmings should be so large. Once the world’s largest producer of heart-shaped boxes, A. Klein & Co. was no less essential to the proper observance of St. Valentine’s Day than the words “I love you.” The company had been in business for nearly 70 years when Salwen bought it in 1971. It was a New York City enterprise then, occupying 220,000 square feet in three floors of the former Sunshine Biscuit building on the Queens side of the 59th Street Bridge. Salwen’s trade bustled in the Big Apple until his landlord, the real estate magnate Harry Helmsley, invited him to lunch at the Empire State Building (another Helmsley property). At this meeting, says Salwen, Helmsley informed him that his rent was about to increase by 500%. Like many another manufacturer squeezed by the high costs of doing business in the metro area, Salwen decided it was time to find a more economically friendly base of operations. In 1982, A. Klein & Co. relocated to a 180,000-square-foot plant in Claremont, NC, where Salwen says the motto was, “If it was paper, glue, and cardboard, we could make it.” The company supplied all of the major candy manufacturers. It made Easter boxes for the White House in five years of the administration of George W. Bush. Salwen says that one of its most unusual creations was a hexagonal, fabric-covered perfume box for Oscar de la Renta. With its lid removed and its sides laid down, the box could be turned into two separate trays. At its peak, says Salwen, A. Klein & Co. was producing boxes at a rate of 12 million per year. Competition from box makers in China, however, eventually took its toll, and output dwindled to a point where factory operations could no longer be supported. With reluctance, Salwen closed the Claremont plant at the end of 2008. But, because of his exceptional generosity, Salwen remains rooted to the tradition that the signature product of A. Klein & Co. represented for generations of St. Valentine’s Day celebrants. The holiday’s namesake is a third-century bishop in Rome who, according to some legends, enabled poor girls to be married by raising money for their dowries. We have come a long way from dowries, but not from saluting kindness like Salwen’s on the one day of the year when only heart-shaped boxes like his will do.