This Hallmark store is closing this month, with another gift and cards store to replace it
A retail store that has been a staple of the Hunterdon community for nearly six decades is closing its doors later this month, making room for a successor that will serve a similar purpose in the town of Clinton.
Jayne’s Hallmark Shop, located at 11 Main St., will close on Oct. 31. In light of the closing, all items within the store are being sold at 50% off.
Cardsmart, a national discount and card and gift shop chain, will open in the store’s place — an action that reflects the Jayne Garretson’s desire not create “a big loss” for Clinton’s Main Street.
“It’s going to be up-to-date, trendy merchandise, with some things that Jayne didn’t have,” Rich Rubenstein, co-owner of Cardsmart, said. “The history of Clinton and the Main Street, we look forward to being apart of that and to continue the legacy she’s had there for forty years.”
“We’re excited that the new owner has chosen to locate in Clinton, and we look forward to continuing to help that business grow through the Guild,” Paul Muir, president of the Clinton Guild, said.
“They were the people most interested in the building when it went up for sale, so I was really hoping that they would take it,” Garretson, co-owner of Jayne’s Hallmark Store, said. “They’re filling the gap that we’re leaving … Every time you lose a retail store on the street, it takes away from everybody. Because everybody kind of depends on the traffic created by the whole street; nobody’s a standalone business.”
Jayne Garretson purchased the store with her husband, Robert, in 1980 — 19 years after it was originally established in the Clinton community. Hallmark was renamed after its co-owner in 1992, when the store was awarded Gold Crown status.
Garretson described the Gold status as a “top of the line distinction” for Hallmark stores.
“These stores carry exclusive products and specials that other stores don’t carry, as well as other cards that other stores aren’t allowed to carry,” Garretson noted. “So most of the stores that are in the malls and in big strip centers, those are almost all gold crown stores.”
“You think a Hallmark store would carry Hallmark products, but … but she would have scarfs, clothing and other things,” Loretta Murphy, an employee for the shop, said.
Murphy described Jayne’s Hallmark Shop as “a warm, homey place” that served as her “go-to gift and card store.”
“That particular store, especially during the holidays and at Christmas time — you feel like you’re kind of in the 1960s or something. It’s the biggest storefront in town, and they put lights up during Christmastime … it’s just very inviting and very comforting,” Murphy said.
While describing her 40 years of running the store as “a great experience” that cultivated her love for the community of Clinton, the store’s three-month closure — caused by the coronavirus pandemic — inspired Garretson to turn a new leaf.
“I always thought I would be bored silly at home, and after three months of being forced to stay home I found out I enjoyed it so much that I had no desire to come back and work more,” Garretson said. “I walked in and I was like, ‘I don’t need to be here. This is not where I want to be anymore.’”
“I’m now 71 years old. And I’m tired of working, to be perfectly honest with you,” she added. “I don’t have to work. It’s been a wonderful experience running the store and I’ll miss everybody. But at this point I find it’s just the time in my life to relax and just enjoy things and not work so hard, because running a retail business is a lot more work than most people realize. Physically, especially.”
And the work would not have slowed down for Garretson anytime soon. The store’s closure overlapped with some of its biggest selling periods, including Easter, Mother’s Day and part of the graduation season — meaning that, like most other small businesses, Jayne’s Hallmark has financial losses to regain.
“If I was 15 years younger, I would stick it out,” Garretson said. “But I was only planning on being open maybe a year or two (longer) at the most anyway, and it’s going to take that long at least for retail to recoup. And I didn’t see the point in struggling at this point in my life.”
Although four decades of her life had been spent running the Clinton business, Garretson had never envisioned herself becoming a business owner.
“I just kind of fell into it,” Garretson said. “My husband and I were living in Ohio, and he was running a chain of other kinds of gift stores, and he had had a long history of retail to begin with. And his family was out here in New Jersey, and they stumbled across a store for sale and we decided that might be a good opportunity for us. So we bought the business.”
Upon learning that “the cost of living in New Jersey was quite a bit higher than the cost of living in Ohio,” Jayne arranged to run the store while Robert worked in other retail companies throughout the rest of his career.
Her decision ended up paying off, as Garretson developed a bond with the rest of the Clinton community through working from her Main Street location.
“The town has been vibrant, and what’s really special about downtown Clinton is we’re not a tourist destination per say, even though so many people think that’s what we are,” Garretson said. “The people that live in our area love their downtown, and support their downtown merchants, and that’s why Clinton has kept the state so vibrant while other downtowns have fallen by the wayside.”
“It has a very strong merchants’ association that supports all sorts of community activities and specials … It’s something that’s very unique at this time, that a downtown does as well as Clinton does,” she added.
Despite her eagerness to “enjoy the first Christmas season we’ve had off in 40 years,” Garretson labeled her profound connection with the community as the benefit of her career that she will miss the most.
“Our customers have been so lovely to us since they found out we were closing. Every single person says to us, ‘We’re sad, we can’t believe you’re going, we’re going to miss you so much,’” Garretson said. “You don’t realize how much people depend on your store until they find out you’re not going to be there anymore.”
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