Everyone has a unique reason to shop, a different story to tell when they go to Barbara’s Hallmark Shop.
And Barbara Grappone is always around to listen.
Grappone opened Barbara’s Hallmark Shop at 1637 N. Atherton St. about 20 years ago, a decision that has given her the opportunity to help people celebrate every type of occasion.
“What I loved about it was that basically everyone comes in here to shop for a happy occasion,” she said.
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Q: When did you open the store?
A: About 20 years ago, and we’ve always been in this location. We actually had another location in Altoona and were approached by Hallmark to come into the State College location. I always loved State College, so we decided to go for it.
Q: How did you get into owning a Hallmark?
A: I always had a retail background in buying and merchandising. The opportunity came about when I was approached about buying out a business. I decided to take the plunge. I was always a Hallmark shopper myself, and I’ve always believed in the brand and what it stands for. It’s perfect quality and great value. I thought that combined with what we could do customer service wise would be a good fit, and it has been.
Q: Did you know what you got yourself into?
A: Somewhat, from the standpoint of merchandising. It was a little different in some ways for me. My background was in Ready To Wear. I had to shift into the more giftable merchandise. What I loved about it was that basically everyone comes in here to shop for a happy occasion. As far as knowing what I got myself into, yeah, I knew a little bit. There were some business aspects that had a learning curve. That’s with any new business, especially if you’ve never had an owner’s standpoint before. I had a lot of great support and staff, and it’s been great.
Q: Why have you stayed in this specific location location for about 20 years?
A: We have people who have shopped here since the day we opened the doors. What was interesting is a lot for those people were young moms with young children, and we used to do a lot of children’s events when we first opened up. All of those kids are in college or older, and they’re coming back and bringing their kids. The moms from 20 years ago are still coming in here for different events and everything else we offer.
The woman was so thrilled that she could buy something for her 90-year-old mom who didn’t really need anything except to have her day brightened.
Q: Mother’s Day weekend is coming up. Are you busy?
A: This is one of our biggest weeks of the year. It’s awesome in the sense that everyone shops for mom. Husbands, little children, sisters and everyone, again, comes in here for a happy occasion. It’s so much fun to pick something that’s really personal for who they’re buying something for.
Q: How many people come in here that end up looking for a card for more than an hour?
A: Oh, it happens all the time. There’s a method to our madness. As you can see when you walk into our store there are a lot of things that hit you before you get to our cards. And when people get to our cards a lot of times they look at a lot for them to pick the right one.
Q: Do people often tell you their stories?
A: All the time, and that’s what Hallmark is all about. It’s so often people are reading the sentiment on the card, and it always brings about a story about a family member, something that they’re celebrating and maybe there was a recent loss. And so many of our products in our store allow people to connect to their personal experiences, and they express that.
Q: What’s a recent example of someone sharing their story with you?
A: I had a woman in not too long ago who was looking for something for her mom. So, her mom was in a nursing home, and her mom was 90 years old. She bought two pairs of slippers in here, one for her mom and one for her mom’s roommate. She took a picture of the two ladies with their little slippers on, and it was so cute. Everyone gathered around them in the nursing home with these two ladies and their matching slippers on. These ladies were just so happy. The woman was so thrilled that she could buy something for her 90-year-old mom who didn’t really need anything except to have her day brightened. So, now we actually have a picture of that in the store.