Karen Johnston has over 35 years of experience with the Hallmark brand.  She began her career working in Eden, NC for Dee’s Hallmark Shop before coming to Danville in 1984 to work in the Hallmark Shop located on the first floor of the new Piedmont Mall.  In 2003, Karen decided it was time to buy the existing shop and put her unique mark on its operations.   She sought help from the Longwood SBDC – Danville to facilitate this process and was approved by Hallmark for the purchase.  Since that initial contact with the SBDC, Karen has been the ideal client and SBDC supporter.  She has made judicious use of the SBDC course offerings and special programs and has enthusiastically supported the SBDC with its funding partners.  She took the time to share her unique story as a panelist at the Women’s Business Conference in 2012 thus inspiring the 100 participants in Danville, 35 in South Boston and those that watched on the Internet from our live webcast.

Locally, Karen’s Hallmark Shop is known for its excellent customer service, beautiful displays, special events, and community service projects.  Karen has taken great care in staffing her shop with employees (see photo above) that ascribe to her belief in providing customers with a great shopping experience and supporting the local community.  Not only does the shop carry the very best that Hallmark offers in terms of cards, gifts, souvenirs, and Yankee Candles; it also promotes other local and regional small businesses.  Local authors and poets have a natural outlet to sell their books and have book signings and community organizations have an outlet to sell their products and/or tickets for events including wine tastings, holiday and garden tours, concerts, plays,  and fund raisers.

To stay on top, Karen has used the SBDC’s SMall Town and Merchants Program (STAMP) program to her advantage as well as the SBDC social media marketing consultant and implemented many of their suggestions in her quest to stay on top of her game and provide her customers with the best experience.  She also insures that her staff members are included in the training; thus giving them the opportunity to learn and grow.  This in turn provides the Mall with a solid tenant that draws foot traffic, the city with significant tax revenue, and the community with 8 good jobs that include benefits!