New owner watches the trends
The challenging thing about the gift shop business is that nobody needs what you sell, said the new owner of the Cottage Grove Hallmark Gold Crown store.
"It's not like the grocery store where you have to go every week, and so we work hard to make it more exciting and more fun to keep people coming back regularly," said Brad Boogren, who now runs the store at 7282 E. Point Douglas Road near Rainbow Foods and American Motorsports Bar and Grill.
Rubber bands in all colors and shapes that kids like to trade and Japanese collectible erasers are the hot items right now, he said.
Boogren, along with partner Jon Goodrich, bought the Cottage Grove store and the Hastings Hallmark store from Ric and Judy Claydon on July 1.
Boogren may have some new stores, but the Cottage Grove resident is definitely not new to the business.
His parents owned a drug store in St. Paul, which expanded to include a Hallmark section in the mid-'70s, and then Boogren opened his own Hallmark Gold Crown store in White Bear Lake in 1988.
"I grew up in the business, basically," he said.
The St. Paul store ultimately sold its business to CVS/pharmacy and closed, so Boogren's company, Borgstrom's Hallmark (named for the original owner of the St. Paul drug store) now owns three shops.
"It's a fun business, because we're really about people sharing their emotions and sharing their feelings," Boogren said. "It's a rewarding thing."
The gift shop business is not without its challenges, Boogren said.
Sales of greeting cards and collectibles have slowed over the past 10 years, due in part to eBay, which gave collectors an alternative to standing in line at stores.
Instead, the store is selling more women's fashion accessories like purses, scarves and jewelry, kids items like the rubber bands and erasers and technology-driven products like recordable cards and storybooks.
The global economy also affects the business. Labor and shipping container shortages in China have already delayed his fall shipment by about two weeks, he said.
"You don't realize how one little business -- a gift shop -- can actually be involved in the whole global economic system," he said.
The Hallmark store is located near empty retail space that once housed Home Depot and the CGAA Bingo Hall. That concerned Boogren a little, but he said it reassured him that his other neighbors, American Motorsports Bar and Grill and MGM Liquor Warehouse seemed to be successful.
Still, he said he'd be happy to see something move into the Home Depot site soon, and he plans to stay busy keeping up with the "next big thing" and stocking it in his stores.
"Every time I think I have things figured out, something changes," he said. "That's what makes it exciting, because it's always new and different."