The greeting card business is heading down that path. More than a billion fewer Christmas cards were purchased last year than in 1995. The rise of e-cards is part of the reason that we won't be getting mail deliveries on Saturdays anymore. Grace's is just one of more than 700 Hallmark stores across the country that has shut down in the last five years.
This closure stings me not just because it's an inconvenience; I can buy my greeting cards at the market or the mall.
It's a loss because it brought strangers together for a ritual that binds us to the people in our lives.
Whatever the sentiment, whatever my mood, I could search until I found a message that fit — funny, poetic, tender, risque — to celebrate a birthday, soothe a friend's distress, try to mend a lover's feud.
There was something unexpectedly convivial about laughing over Shoebox cards alongside a stranger. Something oddly comforting about knowing that on my birthday someone is bound to give me a Maxine card that grumpily celebrates the vicissitudes of aging.
And something humbling about the realization that an anonymous greeting card scribe could perfectly capture and convey my feelings for my daughter.
Grace's Hallmark was the place where that played out — the shopping equivalent of emotional comfort food.
"They'd let you walk around for an hour, looking for just the right card," said Northridge Realtor Bonnie Pobjoy. She used to bring along her elderly aunt, who considered a visit to Grace's Hallmark akin to a social outing.
It was the kind of place where a customer with failing eyesight could rely on Grace to accompany her from rack to rack, reading cards aloud. Because everyone there seemed to understand that perusing greeting cards was about making connections with people.