After more than 25 years, the Bay Hills Card and Gift Hallmark store in Arnold will close its doors at the end of February.
It's the end of an era for store owner Brad McCormack, who has been working at the business since the 1980s, inheriting it from his father, Fred, who had worked for Hallmark since after Vietnam.
The Arnold store officially opened in November 1987, doing much of its business selling holiday and birthday cards, with a thriving gift and candy market on the side.
But times have changed.
McCormack said he was closing the Arnold store because it was no longer financially viable. Part of that is due to an online shift in the retail market that several businesses are experiencing, but another factor is the local market, he said.
"The end was coming. I saw it coming, and chose not to renegotiate the lease," McCormack said. "I probably would have stayed if the economics had worked out, but it's a financial decision for me."
McCormack said the cards and gifts business lives on the bustling traffic a shopping center can provide—people stopping in after dropping off their dry cleaning, or while walking back to their cars from a haircut. But over the past two years, McCormack said he noticed a distinct decline in traffic at the Bay Hills Shopping Center.
"As of two years ago, I began to start sweating paying the bills in the summertime," he said.
But what was the cause of that shift? McCormack politely declined to point fingers.
In a cramped backroom of the Arnold store, McCormack sat in a chair where there would normally be boxes of Christmas goods, even though the holiday is still 10 months away. Instead of receiving advanced Christmas merchandise, he's trying to get rid of the last of the merchandise.
McCormack had this message for his loyal customers:
“By virtue of this business, our customers aren’t buying something for themselves. They’re buying something to make somebody else feel good. It’s really been great. I’ve had great years here, and I’ve enjoyed interacting with people, so I will miss my interactions with them.”
“I will miss this place, but it looked like it was going to become a liability for me to stay here,” he said.
As for what’s next for McCormack? His future is undecided, but in March, he said he’ll take the first steps on a new adventure.
McCormack said he has always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail, and he has already charted out plans for a month-long trek along some of the most beautiful greenspace the country has to offer.
And what's next for Bay Hills Shopping Center? When the Hallmark store vacates, there will be two adjacent parcels without tenants. The Wild Goose Seafood Market nextdoor has been out of business for months. McCormack said he has heard that an Italian restaurant may open in his spot, but he was not certain.