I noticed when I shopped for Valentine's Day cards that the supply at my local Hallmark store was woefully thin. I chalked that up to my own procrastinating.
But when I went back this week to buy a thank-you card to mail to a friend, I found a note taped to the door that moved me uncomfortably close to tears.
To our Valued Friends, it read. Thank you for 20 years of patronage and friendship! We are now permanently closed for business."
Greeting cards, it seems, are becoming passe in an era of Evites, Facebook birthday posts and thank-yous via text.
Grace's Hallmark in Granada Hills had become the latest victim of a generational and technological shift that has laid waste to bookstores, newspapers, magazines and age-old rituals of human interaction that don't require a computer, a tablet or a cellphone.
The card shop's owners, Grace and Dan Lee, were packing to leave Monday when I stopped by. They officially closed the day before, but customers were still trickling in for goodbyes and last-minute bargains on things they hadn't known they wanted.
Stragglers pawed through leftovers: Easter and St. Patrick's Day cards, picture frames, coffee mugs, Christmas decorations and wedding goblets — all cash only, 50% off.
A father and daughter came looking for Precious Moments figurines. He had bought dozens over the years, marking family milestones at this store.
A couple of ladies stopped by with champagne; hugs accompanied the bubbles.
Grace Lee said she's been surprised by the emotional response to their departure. "Some people come in crying," she said.
Grace's Hallmark opened in 1993, survived the damage of the Northridge earthquake and the shifting fortunes of the Granada Village shopping center to become a neighborhood staple. You could buy a card from Grace and Dan, walk a few steps to the post office and drop it in the mailbox.
They are shutting down because their lease expired, and it doesn't make sense to recommit to an industry that's dying.
"Business has been trending down for years," Grace Lee said. "Young people don't come in anymore. They order [gifts] on Amazon and send their cards online.
"It's the older people who like to buy cards. And they like to receive them."
People like me... who also like to browse bookstore racks and page through the newspaper when it lands each morning in the driveway.
The cyber world can't replicate the sifting and studying, the prospect of discovery, the sync between what's on my mind and what I'm holding in my hand.
The satisfaction of the search is part of what's lost as we leave print and concrete behind. There's a visceral pleasure in those tactile, tangible things — picking, sending, opening a card — that a Facebook post can't match.
I admit I'm still bitter about the closing of our local Borders 18 months ago. It was the last of what used to be a half-dozen bookstores within a few miles of my Northridge home. Now it's a sporting goods store.