Lawrence once again has a Hallmark Gold Crown store, thanks to unique partnership

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence resident Stacy Riggins looks through the Hallmark display within the Westlake Ace Hardware store at The Malls shopping center at 23rd and Louisiana streets, Wednesday, March 7, 2018.

I know what the gold crown signifies when talking about a Hallmark Gold Crown store. It reminds me that I’ll need to melt one down to pay for all the Hallmark Christmas ornaments that will make their way to my house. For the last several years, buying those types of Hallmark specialty items has required a trip out of town. That’s now changed.

Hallmark and Westlake Ace Hardware have partnered to open a Gold Crown Hallmark store. The new shop is inside the Westlake Ace Hardware store at 23rd and Louisiana streets.

Lawrence becomes one of the first stores in the country to use the “store within a store” concept with Hallmark.

“They did a couple of test stores, and then Lawrence was one of the first stores chosen,” said Sean Christensen, manager of the store in the Malls Shopping Center. “The test stores did well, and with Hallmark having their manufacturing plant in Lawrence, it makes a lot of sense for us to have one.”

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Indeed, Lawrence is a big Hallmark town, which made it odd that Lawrence has been without a Hallmark store for several years. The Hallmark production facility near the Kansas Turnpike and McDonald Drive produces essentially every Hallmark branded card in North America. If Lawrence tourism officials ever wanted to brand the community as the Christmas Capital of America, we could make the case. Think about it: How many millions of people receive a Christmas card that comes from Lawrence?

Rod’s Hallmark, I believe, was the last Hallmark Gold Crown store in Lawrence. It stopped serving as a Hallmark store in 2011 and closed sometime after that. Everyone, of course, is familiar with Hallmark’s cards. You can buy them at grocery stores, discount retailers and plenty of other places around town. But if you are not familiar with a Gold Crown store, then you evidently don’t have a Christmas tree full of Winnie the Pooh ornaments. You don’t know what you are missing. They move, and when you pull a string he says something hilarious about not being able to find his honey. (Every year, I offer to “help” him find his honey, but I’m not really allowed to touch any of the ornaments.)

Gold Crown stores sell those ornaments, plus gift wrapping, a larger selection of cards, stuffed animals, figurines and several other types of collectibles, including lots of Disney, Peanuts and Precious Moments items.

Yes, those types of items now will be available in a hardware store. It is kind of brilliant because if I ever buy a Precious Moments item at the hardware store, I absolutely will buy a 36-inch chainsaw, a power nailer and a case of drill bits to ensure testosterone levels stay in balance.

All kidding aside, it is an adjustment for the hardware business.

“It is a big learning curve,” said Christensen, who just got back from Hallmark’s corporate headquarters where he learned about many product offerings.

But Christensen said he’s excited about the new offerings.

“We think it is a great idea because it brings added variety to our customers,” Christensen said. Plus, if it helps people spend their dollars locally, that is a benefit too, he said.

As for the details about the store within a store, the Hallmark selections are front and center. They are in the area right as you walk into the store, where a selection of tools previously were located. But don’t worry, tool fans, Christensen said the addition of the Hallmark store hasn’t caused Westlake to reduce its inventory in other areas. Instead, the store just moved some departments around.

Work began to remodel the location a few weeks ago. The store is celebrating the opening of the Hallmark shop with an open house and refreshments (a pot of honey would be appropriate) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.