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Hallmark store in Hastings to close

For more than 35 years, Hastings has had a Hallmark store. Next month, it is expected to close its doors.

Ric Claydon first opened the store in Westview Center in 1976.

"We were building a chain of stores, expanding our business," Claydon said.

He had two other stores, one in Red Wing and one in Cottage Grove, and the Hastings location fit right in line with the others. The shopping mall was just being built then too, and Hallmark prefers to locate in shopping centers, he explained.

Back then, Westview had the list of typical shopping center tenants, Claydon said. There were clothing stores, retail, department stores - Pamida anchored one end while the County Market grocery store anchored the other. Most of his customers were local shoppers, much like today, he said. The city was smaller then, and the people who lived here were also more likely to shop here. These days, many residents drive elsewhere to work and do their shopping on the way.

Advances in technology have led to more frequent changes in products. It's like the fashion industry, Claydon said. For example, his gift wrap department changes products four times a year to meet consumer preferences, whereas it used to be the same gift wraps would be available for about three years before they'd get refreshed.

In June 2010, Claydon sold the Hastings and Cottage Grove stores to Brad Boogren, and the name of the store changed slightly from Claydon's Hallmark to Borgstrom's Hallmark, after the man Boogren's parents used to work for in St. Paul. Boogren and Claydon had known each other about 25 years, Claydon said, and Claydon was starting to think about retirement.

"I knew that I was going to retire someday," he said.

Boogren knew keeping the Hastings store open would be difficult.

"The industry has changed a lot," he said.

The collectible business has declined dramatically in the past 10 years, he said, and with Hallmark increasing its distribution into stores like Walmart, Walgreens and Coborn's, getting people to come into the Hallmark store for its better selection has been difficult.

"I knew going into it Hastings would be a challenge," Boogren said.

The end result was that he simply couldn't afford to keep it open anymore, he said.

The store is currently holding a going-out-of business sale, complete with prize drawings.

"As difficult as this can be, we're trying to make it fun," Boogren said.

He's also trying to encourage his customers to support other local Hastings businesses by giving out gift certificates to places like The Onion Grille and MDK Hair Design.

Boogren said he'll be focusing on his other two stores, the one in Cottage Grove he bought from Claydon with the Hastings store, and another in White Bear Lake. The Hastings store manager will be transferring to the Cottage Grove store, so loyal local customers who want to shop there will have a familiar face.

Claydon is still operating his Red Wing store.

"It was a great run for me," he said of the Hastings location.

An exact closing date has not yet been set for Hallmark, but it will be open at least until March 10, when the drawing for a plasma TV will be held.