BUCKHANNON – For 32 years, Diane’s Hallmark employees have been counting out the correct number of signature gold-crown seals to tuck into the bag of each card-purchasing customer.
(Any savvy Hallmark shopper knows there must be one to close every card.)
But now, as owner Diane Poach counts down the days until the card and gift shop closes for good, she’s counting the blessings the store – which opened in September 1986 – has showered her with.
One of those blessings, Poach told My Buckhannon in early December, is the length of time Diane’s Hallmark has kept its doors open – and loyal customers coming back.
“Thirty-two years, I think, is a long time to be in business,” Poach said.
At the end of January, Poach is retiring, and the store, located at 201 S. Kanawha St., is closing permanently.
So, on Dec. 6, Diane’s Hallmark launched an eight-week wall-to-wall retirement sale with the aim of selling not only every piece of merchandise in store – handbags, home décor, accessories, cards, clothing, jewelry, inspirational wall art and much, much more – but also store fixtures, furniture and equipment.
“We’re selling everything wall to wall,” Poach said. “We’re selling the fixtures. We’re selling all of the product. We’re selling all of the shelving, everything that seems to be left, we’re selling.”
Poach, who also owns the Diane’s Hallmark Shop in Fairmont’s Middletown Mall location, is closing that one, too.
But make no mistake – the store isn’t going out of business. It’s called a retirement sale for a reason: Poach is retiring to pursue other interests and spend more time with family, including her 12 grandchildren.
Diane’s Hallmark got its start when Poach’s youngest child turned 3 years old, and she began searching for a business opportunity.
“The youngest of my children was 3, and I wanted something to do,” she recalled. “My husband and I were at a gift show, and we realized that Buckhannon did not have any kind of a card store, so we thought, ‘that would be a nice thing for me to do,’ so we checked with several different card stores.”
Soon after, Diane’s Hallmark opened a small location in Wendling’s Plaza, but after expanding some in that area, moved to its current location on Route 20 about 14 years ago.
Although Hallmark is primarily known for its one-of-a-kind cards and gifts, Poach began to think some outside the gift box and consider what local people would like to buy at her shop.
“Hallmark is a card and gift store, so in addition to having the cards that they (Hallmark) recommended, I wanted to have gifts that people around here would want, and so I kind of listened to my customers and if they said, ‘oh yes, we want jewelry,’ then I brought in a lot of jewelry.
“If they wanted purses, I brought that in,” Poach added. “I tried to stay a little bit with the trends, but also since we didn’t have a lot around here, I just wanted to have a lot for everybody – a lot of variety for people.”
She ensured some products made by local people lined the shelves, including hand-painted glassware crafted by Meeka (artist Linda Hicks) and Candies by Linda made by Linda Xander.
“Those are two vendors we stuck with,” Poach explained. “I couldn’t, unfortunately, take everybody, but those two women are pretty reputable, and everybody loves their products.”
Also, typically on hand were plenty of West Virginia University merchandise and state of West Virginia apparel.
“I have a lot of West Virginia product and state of West Virginia product, so people were very proud to have that type of thing, so I was glad to have that, too,” Poach said.
Poach said her favorite aspect of longtime business ownership is the way in which the store has enabled her to forge connections with customers, who have become like friends to her.
“I love the shop; I love the people,” she said. “They are all so wonderful, and they’ve kind of become my friends over the years – the repeat shoppers. The customers, I think, really make it worthwhile.
“They come in, and we just try to meet their needs – whether they’re happy or sad, and we find out what they need a card or a gift for, so we’ve kind of shared their lives with them through gifts and cards. That’s the number one thing – our customers have become our friends.”
Poach says her experience with employees – one of whom, Sue Wilt, has been with her since day one – has been nothing but pleasant.
“My employees have just been wonderful,” she said. “I don’t know if that’s due to living in a small town, but everybody that I’ve had has been a pleasure to work with, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely.”
But back to now.
With just four weeks left in the shop’s retirement sale, shoppers should stay tuned, Poach said. There will be plenty more opportunities to win prizes through amassing points in a variety of different ways. Customers can continue to take advantage of discounts, which will keep changing every week, she said, advising shoppers to keep an eye on their snail mail, email and social media posts.
In the future, Poach hopes someone else will open a store that specializes in selling cards as well as gifts.
“That’s my hope – that our customers will have some place to go,” she said.
Questions about the sale, how to pick up points or win prizes? Call the Buckhannon location at 304-472-9110 or the Fairmont location at 304-363-7056.