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Not All Greeting Card Stores Need 'Sympathies'

She acknowledges that running an independent card and gift shop in today's times is challenging, but she has plenty of ideas on how to make it work. Her ideas include putting in a second line of full-price cards, making more room on the floor for giftware and perhaps even opening a satellite post office or doing custom invitations.

"The rent is really high. We have to sell an awful lot of stuff to pay the rent. On the flipside, we feel like we're being entrepreneurial and constantly bringing in new stuff," she says. "We're always trying to think of what can we do to get more people in."

Here are three lessons newcomer Norman has already learned:

1. Diversify and tailor merchandise to customer demand.
The business partners recognized immediately that CardSmart's merchandise needed to expand. They have added moderately priced giftware such as picture frames, hostess gifts, scarves and jewelry.

"You have to maximize every inch of space with other merchandise when you're selling cards at 50% off," she says.

2. Know your market.
"That's the difference between a Party City and us," says Norman, a former cardiovascular ultrasound technician.

For instance, CardSmart's hometown has many children who attend sleepaway camp. It's common to have "Welcome Home" balloons for them at the end.

Norman and Rothberg, living in the area and having kids of their own, knew that and were prepared. "We did not run out. Party City did," she says.

3. Get to know your customers.
"We've been here six months, we probably know 50 to 100 customers on a first-name basis. It's cliche, but everybody knows your name here," she says.

To follow Laurie Kulikowski on Twitter, go to: http://twitter.com/#!/LKulikowski

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.
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