Behind a temporary construction barricade on one of the Country Club Plaza’s busiest streets, Hallmark Cards is preparing to test a new type of specialty store.
By JOYCE SMITH
The Kansas City Star
The store will be called HMK — long the internal abbreviation of the company name by Hallmark employees — and scheduled to open at 4710 Broadway in mid-October. HMK will be the first of its kind in the country and the first new type of store for Hallmark since it launched its Hallmark Gold Crown stores in the mid-1980s.
The 2,300-square-foot store will sell greeting cards and “on trend” gifts such as jewelry, pillows, children’s clothing, candles and ornaments, with a focus on in-store “personalization, customization and co-creation” using the latest technology.
“Many people want to give gifts and cards that they are able to put more of themselves into, and this store will give them more of an opportunity to do that,” said Linda Odell, a spokeswoman for Hallmark.
HMK will offer such services as in-store printing on greeting cards, embroidered monograms on baby bibs and laser engraving on jewelry. It also will have a gift wrapping department.
Greeting cards will be displayed in a new way, including showing the whole front of the card. HMK staff will carry an iPad and be able to identify specific cards in Hallmark’s database and pull a fitting one from thousands in Hallmark’s stock. Departments will be organized by season, children, baby, gift wrap, home, women and greeting cards.
Hallmark usually spends six to nine months opening a new store — building out the store, ordering products, hiring staff — but with HMK it will do it in three. The store will have 10 to 15 full- and part-time employees.
Hallmark had more than 4,000 Gold Crown stores a decade ago. The number has dropped to about 2,600 stores nationwide.
The HMK store will have more of a boutique atmosphere than the Gold Crown stores and is designed to fit into higher-end centers attracting tech-savvy shoppers.
The Gold Crown stores cater to a wider range of shoppers, are typically larger and offer a broader selection of Hallmark products. They also fit into a variety of centers. About 85 percent of the Gold Crown stores are independently owned.
“The Hallmark Gold Crown store works really well in suburban locations and smaller communities,” Odell said.
Plaza seasonal shops
Along with signing the first HMK store, the Plaza is among the first area shopping centers to open holiday pop-up stores, when some other centers are opening their temporary Halloween stores.
• Knotty Rug Co. has a store in the 45th and State Line antiques district in Kansas City, Kan. Now it has taken a 5,563-square-foot, two-story space at 4725 Wyandotte St. through January 2014. It sells high-end, hand-knotted rugs from around the world. It also offers rug cleaning and restoration and appraisal services.
“We get the exposure of being on the Plaza. We hope to land some business from those tourists,” said owner Darrel Wingo. “We opened 10 years ago and still have a lot of people in town who don’t know we exist. We try to be the leader for more stylish pieces in today’s colors and unique forms.”
The Plaza store has a more limited selection than the Kansas City, Kan., store, but the rugs can be displayed more easily. Upstairs is the clearance center, with rugs and pillows discounted 50 percent.
“People don’t always relate the Plaza to good deals, so that’s hard to get across,” Wingo said. “Our hope is to make it a permanent home in conjunction with the State Line store.”
• Boulevard Brewing Co.’s Boulevard Dry Goods is back. The store is scheduling an Oct. 4 opening at 4740 Pennsylvania Ave. The 1,549-square-foot space will stock a variety of Boulevard-theme merchandise, including some by local artisans. Items can include apparel, glassware, custom signs and soap made with Boulevard beer.
Boulevard said its dry goods store helps it extend the “Boulevard experience” beyond the brewery. It will host complimentary beer samplings and meet-and-greets with brewery employees. Boulevard opened its first pop-up store on the Plaza a year ago.
• Tivol is partnering with Shinola Detroit in a new pop-up scheduled to open Monday at 415 Nichols Road. The store will sell Shinola Detroit’s watches, artisan leather goods, journals, apparel including denim, shoe care products and bicycles — all made in the U.S. with a vintage vibe.
• Brookstone is open at 424 Nichols Road. The 6,512-square-foot space sells an assortment of products, including remote control helicopters, alarm clocks, massage chairs, speakers, iPad accessories, pillows and blankets.
• JetCoutureJewels, a locally owned jewelry design company, plans to open its first retail location Saturday at 4709 Central. The 721-square-foot space will have handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces made with precious metals and fine gemstones, including a variety of crystals and freshwater pearls.
JetCoutureJewels’s products also are carried locally in some of higher-end boutiques. Owner and designer Mary Burger had previously called the company JetLagJewels and changed the name this year.
Burger has fond memories of shopping with her family on the Plaza as a child and eating at Winstead’s every Sunday.
“My father recently passed. I wish he was here to see the store,” she said. “It was a huge deal at Christmastime, to shop when the streets were all snowy. And the Plaza just keeps getting better and better with time.”
To reach Joyce Smith, call 816-234-4692 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter at JoyceKC.