Business Spotlight Article #5: Tina’s Hallmark Shop
For Release 3rd Week of October, 2016
Contact: Caitlin Christiana - Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce
Business Spotlight: Tina’s Hallmark Shop
by Caitlin Christiana, Springfield Regional Chamber
It was always Tina Vittum’s dream to own a Hallmark store. “I believe everyone should be sending cards,” she smiles. Her wish came true in 2008 when she found the opportunity to purchase a Hallmark store in the Springfield Plaza. Now known as Tina’s Hallmark Shop, Tina is living out her dream, surrounded by friends and family, and spreading the warmth of the Hallmark brand to Springfield and the surrounding communities.
Born and raised in Springfield, Tina graduated from Springfield High School and then went on to study medicinal administration at Champlain College. She worked for Springfield Hospital for 24 years before hearing that Arlene’s Hallmark was for sale and taking the leap to reach her goal. She continued working part-time in Pediatrics until three years ago. Now, the shop keeps her busy on a full-time basis.
In addition to herself, Tina has five employees who work part-time at the shop, including her daughter and her mom. Her friend Sue volunteers to help on busy days. Tina says her employees are “the best! Everyone who works here are my friends.” The staff all agree that providing top notch personal service is their number one priority. They go above and beyond to ensure their customers’ needs are met. Individuals often come in looking for an item relating to a specific theme, and the employees are happy to work together to find hummingbird items, for example, or giraffes, or whatever the special request may be. “We love helping people to find the perfect gift!” Tina says.
Other times, it’s about assisting someone who needs a little extra care. It is not unusual for a staff member to personally pick out cards on behalf of a disabled customer, and then bring them right out to the parking lot. In another case, the staff at Tina’s Hallmark took a gentleman named Larry under their wing. Tina smiles remembering Larry, and explains “he had a musician background, he actually went to Juliard, but he pushed this cart around that was filled with teddy bears, and people thought he was homeless. He was actually the sweetest person, we loved him. I used to run errands for him and drive him places.” When Larry became ill, his wish was to die at home, and so Tina would go and stay with him and bring him groceries during his final days. “He would always say ‘I’m not going to ring your chimes,’ and then he would ring the chimes on his way out of the shop. He touched so many lives.”
The quality customer service at Tina’s Hallmark definitely gets noticed. In addition to serving Springfield and the surrounding communities, the shop sees traffic from folks coming from as far as White River Junction, Rutland, and Enfield, NH. Tina’s service area expanded when the Walpole and Rutland Hallmark stores closed, but more than that, people travel to Tina’s Hallmark because they don’t like the service elsewhere and they appreciate the extra care that Tina and her staff consistently provide. Another example of stellar service, and something many people may not know about, is that Tina’s Hallmark offers free gift wrapping. Even if someone purchases a gift elsewhere, he or she can bring it into the shop, purchase the wrapping paper, and Tina’s staff will happily wrap it free of charge.
Cards are the cornerstone of the shop, and Tina and her friends and family love them. Tina’s daughter even stocks cards in her dorm room at the University of Maine, to share with friends! But Tina’s Hallmark also carries many other things including ornaments, Yankee Candles, home décor items, stuffed animals, jigsaw puzzles, frames, and more. Tina loves the brand; she loves receiving and sending cards, and celebrating occasions, and she thinks it’s the right store to have in a small town. She works closely with Hallmark – they set up cards and do a lot of the marketing – but not everything in the store is Hallmark. She makes sure to stock a variety of items with a range of price points to suit everyone’s needs. “People assume Hallmark is expensive, but we carry many affordable gifts.”
Ornaments are another iconic item carried in the shop. Tina has long collected Hallmark ornaments, and some early examples of these treasures are now commanding hundreds of dollars from collectors! Every year, a few new designs are released for the July premier. Then comes the Ornament Debut on the first weekend of October. This is when the majority of the new ornaments come out for the holiday season. The task of unpacking, moving and displaying all the ornaments can be a daunting task. “It’s a lot of work, and usually takes the better part of week for us to get it done,” she emphasizes. But it’s all worth it, for the sake of loyal customers. Many local patrons actually provide Tina with their “Wish Lists” of ornaments they hope to add to their collections. And because the focus is always on providing the best service possible, Tina and her team check the lists against the stock that comes in, and they pull and set aside specific ornaments for customers before putting out the rest in the shop.
Tina cares deeply about her lifelong Springfield community, and shows her support by donating gift baskets and certificates to many local causes. “There’s never anyone we won’t donate to,” she says. Recent causes included the Ludlow Fire Department, and fundraising for Levi Parker and his family. For Market Madness, Tina’s store ran a special – fill a bag with sale items for $15. The shop sells Springfield Art and Historical Society Calendars, and Nutcracker and Apple Blossom tickets, to benefit these important traditions in our town. Tina loves everything about Springfield. She knows all the people, and is involved with church. “Sometimes I hear negativity, but there are so many positives in Springfield! The people who come in here are really awesome.” To Tina, “being a Chamber member means being a part of our community, and small businesses supporting each other.”
Every November, Tina’s Hallmark Shop holds an elaborate Open House with refreshments and prizes, featuring a huge sale. “Our top 400 customers get a special invitation,” she explains. “We host the event jointly with Hallmark, and Young’s lets us use the room next door to display many of the sale items. It’s the wonderful small town convenience of having your landlord next door.” The staff decorates the windows of the room in exchange for use of the space, to brighten their corner of the plaza and create a festive tone for the holidays. This year’s Open House will be held during the second weekend of November, and if customers spend over $50, they will receive a gift bag in thanks.
Tina truly believes in the philosophy of “shopping local.” Not only does it ensure the personalized, caring service that Tina’s Hallmark customers have come to expect, but it supports her shop, so that she can, in turn, continue to support other local businesses and causes. Friendly, familiar, fantastic customer service puts the real value into shopping close to home. To encourage this concept, Tina’s Hallmark is forming partnerships with other local businesses to provide discounts to their employees. Okemo employees who shop at Tina’s will soon begin to receive a discount, and she is actively forming a plan to offer a similar program to employees of Springfield Hospital. It’s all about working together, and nurturing that sense of community that makes Springfield truly feel like home. This frame of mind seems to go hand in hand with Hallmark’s values: “When you care enough to send the very best.”
Tina’s Hallmark Shop is located in the Springfield Shopping Plaza. They are open seven days a week: 9am to 6pm Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm on Saturdays, and their recently added Sunday hours are 11am to 3pm. (“Because a lot of people go to parties on Sundays, and the need someplace to shop for that last minute but still special gift!”) Stop by to check out all that Tina’s store has to offer, spread the word about the benefits of shopping local, and be sure to Like their Facebook to stay informed about upcoming specials and events!