It can be tricky business finding the right gift for someone. After all, anyone can grab something off a store shelf and stick it in a gift bag, but picking out a present with care and thoughtfulness, that will be meaningful to the recipient, is a different story. The same is true when selecting a greeting card. Should it be funny or sincere? Should it have a slot for a gift card or should it play music when opened? To choose the right card and also gift, you need a lot of gifts to choose from, and nowhere can you find a wider and better selection of gifts, greeting cards, and more than when you shop local at Elam’s Hallmark in Grossmont Center.
Elam’s Hallmark may be East County’s largest gift store, but it’s also a supersized example of a successful and thriving family owned and operated business. Proprietor Guy Elam had a strong background in big retail from the earlier days of his career, working with companies such as Dayton Hudson Corp. (where he helped open some of the first Target stores) and FedMart (whose Founder, Sol Price, later created Price Club). After Guy and his wife, Mary, moved with their children, Scott and Christie, to San Diego in 1974, they later decided to start their own business. That decision proved to be a momentous one.
In the ensuing years, the Elam name has become a mainstay when it comes to buying local in San Diego, and the family has been a familiar presence at Grossmont Center. In 1983, the Elams opened a store at Grossmont Center called Animals Galore. After 20 years, that shop closed and was reopened as Home Décor and More. Also, in 1995 they opened Mary’s Secret Garden, which became an East County destination for gifts and garden décor. The Elams spent 26 years total at Grossmont Center before closing their businesses. But that didn’t mean they had left the San Diego business scene completely—the Elams had been building a local empire of 10 Gold Crown Hallmark stores, and they decided to focus their energies there.
But the Elams couldn’t stay away from Grossmont Center. In January 2017, the Elams returned to the recently revamped center with Elam’s Hallmark, which joined the roster of 50-plus mom-and-pop businesses at the Grossmont Center where people can shop local.
“The difference in the Grossmont Center since we left is very impressive,” Mary Elam says. “It is bustling with excitement. It is what you would want your neighborhood center to be. I see locals meeting friends for lunch, shopping together, and relaxing in the lounges in the center. Now there are many events for customers to enjoy; every weekend there is something different to do. That is bringing many new customers to the Grossmont Center.”
One-Stop Gift Shopping
Those customers enjoy having all their gifting needs met under one roof. Elam’s Hallmark carries greeting cards for every holiday and occasion. Of course, that includes traditional ones such as birthdays, anniversaries, and Mother’s Day (the store’s largest holiday for single cards), as well as a range of other occasions such as Chinese New Year, Administrative Professionals Day, Teachers Day, Nurses Day, and many more.
And aside from greeting cards, there’s everything else that’s needed to put together the perfect gift—wrapping essentials, gift bags, and even the gift itself. There are gifts of all kinds for all occasions. Photo frames, candles, books, candy, kitchen and home goods, plus a range of children’s gifts such as toys and stuffed animals—it’s all at Elam’s Hallmark.
There is a department specially dedicated to weddings. The garden department carries gifts and accessories that include a selection of items from the Elams’ former store Mary’s Secret Garden, a welcome addition for longtime customers who fondly remember the older shop. Elam’s Hallmark also sets itself apart with a fashion department, which offers handbags, jewelry, and accessories for women. While the store has a vast selection of gifting items, it’s simple to choose the perfect present with the help of sales associates who are trained to help customers pick out just the right item for any occasion.
Plus, Elam’s Hallmark makes shopping for gifts fun with special promotions and events held throughout the year. For instance, collectors of Hallmark’s famous ornaments are going to want to attend two special events this summer—an ornament premiere in July, followed by an appearance and signing by a Hallmark ornament artist from the company’s Kansas City headquarters in August.
Community Is Their Business
One of the benefits, when people buy local, is that they are supporting businesspeople who are invested in making their community a better place, and that is definitely true with the Elams. For instance, the ornament premiere event in July has a charitable component, a toy drive for Rady’s Children’s Hospital. That focus on community and charity support is standard for all Elam’s Hallmark stores. Every February, for example, all Elam’s Hallmarks host a fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis—and this year’s event raised $15,600 in 25 days.
“We deeply care about our employees and our customers,” Mary Elam says. “We strive to make a positive difference in their lives”.
That care and concern for the community is one of the best things about family owned businesses, and a great reason to shop local. Elam’s Hallmark offers a terrific option for customers who want to buy local in San Diego while at the same time having the ability to get everything they need with just one car trip to a single location. Guy and Mary Elam—and Scott and Christie, who have joined the family business—are devoted to offering customers a wonderful shopping experience. “We are very happy to be back at the Grossmont Center,” Mary Elam says.