the north face body warmer a north side landmark
She decided this was the right time “because retail is very challenging these days and unpredictable.”
“I made a decision to go out on my own terms and not be forced out under bad circumstances. As much as I love it, because it’s my heart and soul, it’s a very difficult decision.”
Although the store has been a fixture at the east end of Glenwood Crossing Shopping Center for more than two decades, it got its start at Westgate Mall in Racine, near Shopko.
Expansion in 1999In 1999, Gill obtained the space adjacent to her store to the west and expanded by 30 percent. It was a brave move.
“As a Hallmark store, most of my business at one time was concentrated on Hallmark cards,” she said. “I incorporated a lot more gifts” with the expansion.
Gill said that her store has mirrored the greeting card business in a lot of ways. “Since 1989, when I started, until now, it’s changed a lot because of the addition of gifts,” she noted. “But Hallmark has done that, too. They were more of a paper products (company), but now they are also about gifts.”
Gill said the expansion toward gift products also came about as the general public was moving away from collectibles, which had been a part of the shop’s offerings.
“Collectibles aren’t as big as they used to be,” Gill said.
Enter the internetAs the years were rolling by for Sue’s Hallmark shop, a massive change was happening in the world around it: the internet. Gill said that greeting card sales in her store have not fallen significantly, but they haven’t grown, either.
“Greeting card sales are pretty comparable to what they have always been,” Gill said. “But as people age,
it’s only the older consumer who is into the touch and feel greeting cards. The younger generations aren’t.”
Gill said she even teases her own children about their lack of penmanship. “They don’t even know how to write anymore,” she joked. “I ask: ‘Do you even know how to write your name?’ I know they can print it, but do they even have a signature today?”
Gill said that the age of sending cards may be ending. “Especially when you talk about thank you cards,” she said. “People can just send a text. Sending a note electronically is different from the thrill of getting a card in the mail.”
As greeting cards became a smaller segment of the store’s business, other kinds of products, even jewelry, filled the gaps.
“Things that people can use have become more popular,” said Gill. “Even technology in the gifts: stuffed animals that sing and dance. Frames that talk. Even our cards have gotten very technological.”Watching the years pass on the north side, Gill said she is surprised that more retail has not come to her part of town.
“We have a great demographic up here, which is why I (originally) chose this area for my Hallmark store. The demographics up here are perfect for retail.
“For some reason, I don’t know if the developers haven’t seen this side of town to be attractive, but it just has not grown. It’s been prime for retail, but it just hasn’t taken off, which is really sad.”
She also laughed about the very real phenomenon of southside residents deciding her shop was just too far north for them.
“We might as well be in South Milwaukee as far as they are concerned,” she said with a laugh. “That really took us off guard at first. At least there is growth on Green Bay Road. . They are heading this way.”
Gill said the saddest part of closing her store is the relationship she has had with her staff. In nearly 29 years, Gill estimates she has had more than 100 employees. Her current staff numbers nine.
“My longest employee has been with me for 27 years,” Gill said. “Over time, I’ve had people who have been with me for nine or 10 years. I’ve been very lucky. This is like my family. I see the people I work with that are my friends more than I see my family.”
More family timeGill’s family two sons, a daughter and her husband will see a bit more of her now. But maybe not for long.
“I will be looking to fill the time,” she joked. “Maybe with another job. I won’t be retiring. That’s not happening. But maybe a little rest and time with my family.”