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Not All Greeting Card Stores Need 'Sympathies'

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- After more than a quarter-century in business, Avant Cards & Gifts of Lincoln, Neb., was having a tough time surviving in the greeting card business. Owner Duane Krepel turned to the store's Facebook page to get customers in the door.

"WE NEED YOUR HELP! This has been a tough and relentless recession," the Nov. 14 status update read. "Unfortunately our bank has determined that due to decreasing sales we will have to close our doors after the holidays. They will reconsider only if we show a significant increase in sales this Christmas. Please don't forget to shop with us and bring your friends and relatives. ... We believe in Christmas miracles & appreciate your help!"

Dana Norman and Michele Rothberg bought discount card store CardSmart in Plainview, N.Y., because they thought there was an opportunity to sell to a more affluent clientele.

Krepel, 67, used to have three stores in the area, but closed two. He says a large portion of his cash and personal savings have been eaten up trying to keep the business running.

"I had to throw the proverbial Hail Mary pass," he says of the Facebook post. "I didn't have any choices. I had to do something [and thought], 'Well, if I could just let my customers know how bad this is, I know they will come help.' It was one of the hardest things I had to write."

The plea not only got customers in the door, but attracted local media. Krepel says sales have been booming and thinks he will have something positive to show his lender, Great Western Bank (TONE), after the holidays are over.

Day by day there is a "minimum of 50% increase," he says. "It's a very good Christmas. I have awakened a lot of my customers that have not made it into the store [in a while]."

Krepel describes his cards and merchandise as up to date, edgy and humorous. Avant Cards' foray into social media (he says the Facebook page was created only a few months ago by a younger employee) has got Krepel thinking that while he's not truly comfortable with the Internet, he needs to embrace technology.

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