‘It’s time.’ Last Hallmark store in SLO County is closing after 38 years

The last Hallmark store in San Luis Obispo County is shutting its doors.

Stephanie’s Hallmark Shop in San Luis Obispo will close sometime in August, owner Stephanie Racette said Monday.

The store, located at 281 Madonna Road, Suite A, in the Madonna Plaza shopping center, opened in 1981, Racette said. It’s the only Hallmark outlet between Ventura and Capitola on the Central Coast.

“We just can’t compete with the online market,” said Racette, who began working at the store in 1998 before taking over as owner in 2013. “We’ve seen decreasing sales over the past three years.”

The store is offering sales ranging from 25 to 75% off its products — which include greeting cards, gifts, ornaments, stationery, gift wrapping supplies and more.

Racette said Stephanie’s Hallmark Shop has faced competition from e-commerce, noting that cards also are available in most grocery stores.

Stephanie’s Hallmark Shop in San Luis Obispo will close in August 2019. Nick Wilson

The Hallmark store has a six-year lease that expires at the end of August, and margins weren’t penciling out, Racette said.

“It just didn’t make sense to sign on for another term, which probably would have been a five-year lease,” Racette said.

Racette declined to state the lease cost. The property is owned by the Schottenstein Real Estate Group, based in Columbus, Ohio.

Racette said at least 60% of products sold at her San Luis Obispo at any given time are Hallmark items, which allows the business to use the brand name in the store’s moniker. But the San Luis Obispo store isn’t allowed to sell Hallmark supplies online, as the Hallmark corporation does, Racette said.

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Stephanie’s Hallmark Shop in San Luis Obispo will close in August. 2019. Nick Wilson

When she started working for the store, Racette said, there were about 10 to 15 Hallmark businesses open in San Luis Obispo County. She’s watched each of them close in recent years as online sales have grown, she said.

Racette said she’ll miss her customers, with whom she’s developed close personal relationships.

“I watched families grow up,” Racette said. “I was the manager for the previous owner. I have a girl working for me now whose mom used to shop here when she was pregnant. I’ve had great experiences, but it’s time.”

Racette said she plans to retire once her store is closed. No specific closing date has been established yet.

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.