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Winning the Card Game: Month 1

PLAINVIEW, N.Y. ( MainStreet) -- Even a few days ago, customers were rummaging through the holiday inventory Card$mart, a discount greeting card store in an upscale mall on Long Island, N.Y., wants to shed. Co-owner Dana Norman, who bought the store in June with business partner Michele Rothberg, was surprised at the continued interest in the seasonal goods.

"Somebody today bought six boxes of Hanukkah cards. It is still surprising that people are still going back there and buying stuff," Norman said Wednesday. "We're going to keep that clearance table up until it becomes an eyesore" -- or long enough to start using it for leftover Valentine's merchandise.

Dana Norman and Michele Rothberg bought a Long Island, N.Y., Card$mart store in June. Month by month, they're learning how to make a business survive and grow.

What's more surprising to Norman is that Card$mart is able to make a profit even on items marked "75% off."

What sells and what doesn't is just one of many lessons Norman and her partner are learning every day as new business owners, yet to get through a full 12-month business cycle.

This yearlong series will follow their ups and downs. Today we look at how the store fared in January, what it did to keep business coming in the door and what issues arose for the owners. (Based on advice from their accountant, the partners have declined to share revenue and profit numbers for last month.)

Norman and her partner were featured in a December story about the fate of the independent greeting card store. Card$mart was among several stores with strategies to survive and thrive among large discount retailers and online sellers dominating what is left of the greeting card industry.

Norman and Rothberg bought the store because they thought there was untapped opportunity, given the affluent clientele and high foot traffic in the shopping center where the business is located.

"We felt that there was a void. The prior owner was missing the mark in what the market needed," Norman said in December.

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