A fresh start | TheUnion.com

A fresh start

A heart attack, six-way bypass operation and long recovery prompted Kathy’s Hallmark owner Kathy Niesen to announce the closing of her Grass Valley store in November.

But it was the heartfelt pleas of her customers that caused her to change her mind.

Niesen, who opened the store in 1989, has decided to continue to operate the store at 141 A West McKnight Way in a corner of the shopping center whose main anchor tenants are Kmart, SPD supermarket and Big 5 sporting goods.

“My customers cried when they found out we were closing. Now they’re all whooping and hollering,” says Niesen.

After the May 2004 heart attack and July 2004 bypass, Niesen needed to devote time to her recovery. As a result, the store began to decline, losing business.

It got so dire that, in October, Niesen ran a tongue-in-cheek ad in The Union in the lost and found column “as sort of a joke to myself,” asking her lost customers to return. The ad drew a lot of response, but business was still slower than usual. She announced Nov. 10 she was closing and began a three-month liquidation sale.

During the liquidation sale, Niesen says “I thought of opening a wedding and gift store downtown but didn’t find the right location. Then, I went to the San Francisco gift show Feb. 7, and I kept finding things that would be just right for Kathy’s Hallmark.”

As she and her husband, Duane, drove across the Bay Bridge after the show, she pondered whether closing was the right thing.

“My husband said ‘do what your heart tells you to do,'” says Niesen.

Longtime employees Judy Sabate and Marilyn Sechler, who were thinking of retiring, are both staying on with Niesen.

However, there will be changes.

The newly invigorated store will be called Kathy’s Hallmark Specializing in Weddings and Gifts. Niesen is going to establish a display area for wedding vendors where they will be able to distribute literature and samples. She will hold monthly wedding seminars in the store. Kathy’s Hallmark has always sold wedding invitations and related goods.

Her goal is to become the “storefront for everyone in the wedding industry. There’s nothing like it at all in Nevada County,” she says.

Kathy’ Hallmark’s inventory will also change. She will carry Hallmark cards and some ornaments, but she is getting out of the Hallmark Gold Crown customer incentive program, which is too costly for the retailer, she says.

Niesen will be bringing in unique items not found in other stores, including unusual gift wrap, albums and a line of handmade cards from Vietnam.

Her sons Jesse and Jason help out part time at the store, “which has a purpose,” Niesen said, “to make people feel better, whether they’re celebrating an event or helping someone else feel better due to a loss or illness. We touch more lives than anyone in town.

“I have always loved my store.”


Contact freelance writer Jean Deitz Sexton at jeans@theunion.com

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