Every ending brings a new beginning

Store closing to make way for new ideas

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By Maria Maxham

The Hallmark store at 7443 Madison St. is closing by the end of the month. "Time for a new chapter and a different venue. Thank you for all the support over the years," read a statement from the owners in a Facebook post.

It's not an unhappy going-out-of-business story, though. 

Rich Schauer, who owns the building and business, says it's time to focus on something new. His father Wayne, who passed away in 2011, bought the building and business from previous owner Rosann Costello in 2007, in large part because the building provided basement storage for Schauer Hardware, which is also owned by the Schauer family. Costello ran Hallmark in that location since 1996.

Schauer's mother, Sandra "Sandy" Lynn Schauer, was a driving force behind the Hallmark store, responsible for working with Hallmark corporate offices for pricing and merchandising. She oversaw ordering for the business and keeping track of popular trends to make sure the store had the right items in inventory.

When Sandy passed away in June, corporate Hallmark didn't make it easy to do the transfer paperwork or to help with the transition to a new store manager, said Rich Schauer. "I said 'forget it.' Let's do something new."

With the market for greeting cards and collectibles changing, Schauer didn't think keeping a Hallmark in the location made sense.

"It's just not a viable business any longer. The stuff we sell here is sold in Walmart and Kohl's. Big stores like that are making stores like this irrelevant. We sell gift bags for $6, and you can get similar ones at the dollar store for $1. The quality might not be as good, but people aren't going to spend more for something they'll only be using once."

"How often do you get cards in the mail anymore?" he asked. "People used to buy and send cards all the time. It's all online now. Everyone celebrates their birthdays on social media."

Then he gestured at the display shelves with porcelain collectibles. "And nobody knows what a Precious Moment is anymore," he said.

He added that the store had big business on the four major holidays, when people would come in for Christmas ornaments or valentine cards. "But if you've got people coming in once a year to buy their advent wreath candles, that's not sustainable."

His mom enjoyed running the store, but Schauer said his father bought it mostly for the building itself. "At the time, I asked him why he was buying a store that sold cards and candles. I said it was like me trying to pick out women's clothing," said Schauer. 

But they kept Hallmark open since 2007, when the death of Schauer's mother made him think long and hard about what he wanted to do next.

"The hardware store isn't going anywhere," said Schauer. "We've owned it for over 20 years."

For the Hallmark space, though, he has big plans, though he's not ready to spill the beans. "We've got a few different ideas we're tossing around," he said. "We're talking to people, trying to figure out what the best fit for Forest Park would be. I want to do something fun."

But the most important thing, he said, is realizing that to be successful in business, you need to evolve. "The Hallmark store hasn't changed in decades," said Schauer. "But the town and the people have. If there's one thing I've learned about business, it's that you have to do what people want you to do, not necessarily what you want to do."

The store will be open until the end of January, with everything marked down by at least 50 percent.

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Christine Westphal Barnard from River Forest  

Posted: January 18th, 2020 10:52 AM

Accents by Fred and Team Blonde might be a good option. They both sell greeting cards and gift items. Accents by Fred's cards are handmade and Team Blonde's cards are unique and funny.

Leah Ann Shapiro from Forest Park  

Posted: January 16th, 2020 7:41 PM

When I first moved to F.P. 13 years ago I was working full time. The Hallmark was not open on the way to work and closed every evening at 5:00 p.m. Other business in the area wished they were open later. I complained to the owner and to the Chamber of Commerce. How could a store in the middle of a business district with restaurants close at 5:00? I believe this is why they had very little business and did not change with the times. The folks serving customers were polite but not helpful. It would be good if a store opened carried party goods and other relevant items.

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