After Valentine’s Day, when Elam’s Hallmark stores are about to close, residents of Ramona will have one less place to shop for gifts.
Guy Elam, who runs the store with his family, said the Albertson mall store was closing for a number of reasons. A big factor is employee-related costs: The minimum wage has nearly doubled from $8 an hour in 1994, when Ramona Hallmark first opened, and Social Security and workers’ compensation have increased, he said.
Additionally, Elam said he has seen a drop in foot traffic since the ALDI store opened in September 2021. Since ALDI opened, fewer customers have visited the mall.
The decision to close the store was made when the store’s lease was renewed, he said.
“Rent is always part of the equation, and it’s expensive in California,” Elam said, without elaborating on the store’s rent costs. “At the end of the day, the store hasn’t made any money in two years. It hasn’t grown. It would have made up if sales had grown 10% a year, but that’s not the case.”
He added that because the Hallmark company set the price, the family was unable to increase the price to cover the increased cost.
The store at 1423 Main St. has started discounting merchandise by 25 percent and Christmas merchandise by 50 percent, and is expected to close the day after Valentine’s Day, Feb. 17. 15.
Hallmark customer Tammy White, who has lived in Ramona for 23 years, said she was not happy about the store closing. White started buying Hallmark Christmas ornaments when her adult children, now in their 30s, were toddlers, and have been buying exclusively at Ramona Hallmark stores since 2000.
“I’m sad because I shop here a lot, especially around Christmas,” White said. “I like to shop where I live, but they’re making that impossible.”
White added that she puts a lot of thought into gift shopping, and when she can’t find something to buy elsewhere, she usually finds it at Elam’s Hallmark in Ramona. With other stores in Ramona closed and some mall stores shuttered, she said she has fewer options for shopping locally.
“They took our shopping here, and I’m not happy about that,” White said. “I would be very sad to see this place go away.”
Hallmark customer Janean Jansen said she was sad to see the store closed.
“Whether it’s an anniversary or a birthday, they’re our go-to store for gifts,” says Jensen, who has lived in Ramona since 1972. “It’s very sad.”
Elam said he would consider retaining Ramona Hallmark employees if they were able to work at one of his other locations, though he added that some of them live in Ramona. Nearby store locations include Poway, Westfield North County Mall in Escondido, Carmel Mountain Ranch, Grossmont Center and San Marcos.
Ramona Hallmark manager Laurie McCormick said she learned about it in December. On the 27th, the store where she has worked for 11 years is about to close.
“This is Ramona’s store, and all the customers have repeatedly expressed their frustration,” McCormick said. “It’s a sad thing for Ramona. We’re losing our gift shop.”
McCormick said she has a job lined up at a new hardware store in San Diego’s country estate, but she will miss her colleagues and customers.
“Sad day for sure,” she commented while waiting for customers at Ramona Hallmark. “It’s a great community here. We’re family.”
Elam said he’s been in the Hallmark business since 1979, when he opened his first store in Rancho San Diego. The Elam family currently owns 12 Hallmark stores, including Ramona stores, 11 in San Diego County and one in Laguna Niguel.
Ramona residents still have the option to shop at Elam’s Hallmark store near the Westfield North County Mall in Escondido and at the 13444 Poway Road location in Poway, Elam said.
“We have a lot of great clients and great employees,” Elam said. “It’s a very sad thing and it’s sad for our family. We love Ramona, we just need more business.”