Hallmark store returning to Billings

2012-09-15T23:45:00Z 2012-09-16T08:19:04Z Hallmark store returning to BillingsBy JAN FALSTAD jfalstad@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

After going a year without a Hallmark store, card and collectible fans will be able to shop locally again by Halloween.

Dave Simkins of Helena, who owns two Leslie’s Hallmark shops and a Made in Montana store in Helena, as well as a Hallmark store in Great Falls, is re-opening a Hallmark store at Rimrock Mall.

The lease was inked last week with Macerich Corp., which owns Rimrock Mall. Simkins has hired Jones Construction of Billings to remodel what was The Buckle space by the Dillard’s women’s store.

Opening by Halloween is key to hitting Hallmark’s biggest promotional week in early November and the retailer’s kickoff to the holiday season, Simkins said.

“Hallmark customers look forward to that date all year,” he said.

The store will be Hallmark’s newest design, one of 53 prototype stores that will open this year.

Mary Lave, who managed the West Park Plaza Hallmark store before it closed, will manage the Rimrock Mall store.

“I don’t talk to anyone who doesn’t say, ‘Hallmark is coming back. Yahoo!’ ” Lave said.

One fan is Lou Paulson of Laurel, who has been buying Hallmark’s “social expression” cards for 30 years.

“I can find cards that say just exactly what I want to say if I had the ability to think of the words,” she said.

Last year when they couldn’t shop locally, Sara Engen of Lockwood and her mother drove to Bozeman to buy the latest holiday Keepsake ornaments. They were planning another trip, until they learned that won’t be necessary.

“I spend probably a couple hundred dollars on ornaments and cards and that’s just for Christmas,” Engen said. “I guess all year around they are missing out on me buying cards and wrapping paper because that’s usually where I go.”

The Billings store will also be called Leslie’s Hallmark Store, named after Dave’s dad. Five years ago, Dave bought out his family, which has run stores for more than three decades.

Negotiations with Macerich took nearly eight months, Simkins said, because they haggled over which non-Hallmark products he could carry. The Billings store will carry 70 percent Hallmark products, 20 percent gifts and 10 percent Made in Montana goods, he said.

In recent years, the two Hallmark stores at the malls and one in the Heights have closed. Seven years ago, Bill and Mary Jackson closed the Hallmark store they ran for three decades on North Broadway.

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