Ramona residents will have one less place to shop for gifts after Valentine’s Day when Elam’s Hallmark store is set to close.
Owner Guy Elam, who operates the store with his family, said the Albertson Mall store was closing for several reasons. A major factor is the cost of employees: minimum wage nearly doubled from $8 an hour when the Ramona Hallmark opened in 1994, and social security and workers’ compensation taxes increased. also increased, he said.
Additionally, Elam said it has seen a drop in customer traffic since the ALDI store opened in September 2021. Fewer customers have been visiting the mall since ALDI opened, it said.
The decision to close was made while the store’s lease was being renewed, he said.
“Rent is always part of the equation and rent is expensive in California as well,” Elam said, though he didn’t elaborate on the store’s rental costs. “At the end of the day, the store hasn’t made any money in two years. It’s not growing. If sales were up 10% every year, that would cover it, but it’s not.”
The family was unable to raise prices to cover the increased expenses because the Hallmark company sets the prices, he added.
The store at 1423 Main St. has begun slashing merchandise by 25% and Christmas items by 50% in anticipation of closing the day after Valentine’s Day, Feb. 15.
Hallmark customer Tammy White, a resident of Ramona for 23 years, said she was unhappy with the closure. White started buying Hallmark Christmas decorations when her adult children, now in their 30s, were toddlers, and specifically started buying them from the Ramona Hallmark store since 2000.
“I’m so sad because I shop here a lot, and more so at Christmas,” White said. “I like to shop where I live, but they make it impossible.”
White added that she puts a lot of thought into buying gifts and when she can’t find anything to buy at other stores, she can usually find it at Elam’s Hallmark in Ramona. With more stores in Ramona closing and some malls closing, she said her local shopping options are shrinking.
“They’re taking away our shopping here and I’m not happy about that,” White said. “I’m going to be very sad to see this place disappear.”
Hallmark customer Janean Jansen said she was sorry to see the store close.
“It’s our go-to store for gifts, whether it’s birthdays or anniversaries,” said Jansen, 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 stores include Poway, Westfield North County Mall in Escondido, Carmel Mountain Ranch, Grossmont Center, and San Marcos.
Laurie McCormick, the manager of Ramona Hallmark, said she learned on Dec. 27 that the store she had worked at for 11 years was closing.
“It’s Ramona’s store and every customer has said time and time again that they’re disappointed,” McCormick said. “It’s a sad thing for Ramona. We’re losing our gift shop.
McCormick says she has a job planned at a new hardware store opening in San Diego Country Estates, but she will miss her co-workers and customers.
“It’s a sad day for sure,” she commented between waiting for customers at the Ramona Hallmark. “It’s a nice community here. We are a 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 the Ramona store, 11 of which are located in San Diego County and one in Laguna Niguel.
Ramona residents would still be able to shop at Elam’s Hallmark stores near the Westfield North County Mall in Escondido and at 13444 Poway Road in Poway, Elam said.
“We’ve had a lot of good customers and good employees,” Elam said. “It’s a very sad thing and it’s sad for our family. We love Ramona, we just needed more business.