Hallmark store closing its doorsVacancies continue to mount at Palace Mall; 14 of 33 retail spots empty.
By: Frannie Sprouls, The Daily Republic
A big, white sign hangs in the window: “All Items 50% Off.” Two women dismantle an empty shelf, stacking the pieces in the middle of the store. A customer asks where the thank you cards are. “Thank-you cards are right over here,” Lori Wald says, leading the customer around the corner.
By the end of July, there won’t be any thank-you cards left. Evenson’s Hallmark in the Palace Mall will be cleared out, unsold items transferred to other stores. “It’s a very big disappointment,” said Wald, an employee for 15 years. “It’s sad for all of our customers, men and women.”
On June 1, Neil Evenson made the decision to close the Mitchell store because of a lack of business.
“Now that there’s a Walmart and Walgreens — they all carry Hallmarks,” Evenson said. “Too many distributors.”
Evenson owns 24 Hallmark stores, the nearest one in Brookings. He’s owned the Mitchell location for almost 16 years.
Lea Joy Geppert has been the manager of Evenson’s Hallmark since the beginning and managed the store for previous owners as well.
“Hallmark has always been here,” Geppert said. “It’s never not been here.”
Geppert heard the news on June 7, a week after Evenson made his decision. She was shocked.
“I had no idea,” Geppert said. “I thought we were doing fine because I was hitting my bonuses.”
Since then, she and her eight employees have been taking apart empty shelves and consolidating what’s left.
Once the Hallmark store closes its doors for good, it’ll join the other vacant spaces in the Palace Mall, located in northern Mitchell. There are 14 vacancies among the 33 spots in the mall and a nearby, smaller strip mall.
EIG, located in Fort Wayne, Ind., is looking for retailers who would be the best fit for the mall, said Bill Martin, EIG leasing director.
Martin said he isn’t worried about the vacancies.
“It’s just a matter of, because of the overall national economy, some retailers are wanting to wait and see what happens,” Martin said. “Not only with the election, but what happens for next year as well.”
Evenson said the Hallmark store was in good shape at the time he bought it in 1997, but for the past couple of years, it wasn’t making money.
Wald had hoped the business would be put up for sale.
“We all hoped something could’ve come in here, something local,” she said.
Instead, they’ve had to explain to their customers that the store is closing.
For Geppert, it’s been tough to break the news.
“It’s a loss to the whole community,” Geppert said. “It’s like losing a part of your family … lots of sad people, a lot of tears.”