The too-little-merchandise lesson from Valentine's Day will be remembered for holidays to come. "We're anticipating that Mother's Day is going to be the same because it's the husbands' responsibility to get the cards for their children and their wife a card," she adds.

This time Card$mart will be ready.

"We basically move from one holiday to another. We packed up Valentine's and out goes Passover, Easter and St. Patrick's Day. Even though it seems so early, you don't want to have empty racks," Norman says.

Lotto as a profitable business
Before owning Card$mart, Norman and Rothberg had no idea how profitable Lotto would be (in terms of actual dollars as well as in getting customers into the store). But running a Lotto business is a bit more complicated.

Every six weeks, Card$mart gets a certain number of booklets on credit allotted by the New York State Lottery. The store is required to make a payment on those booklets every six weeks, but Norman finds she is selling out her games before the six-week period is up and having to pay the organization early to get more.

She hopes to be able to increase soon what the organization will allow her to sell. Stores make 6% commission on lotto sales, she says. And so while "it's not enough to pay the rent," it is enough to fill the gaps on slow days and make sure the store has regular customers.

Sick leave
While Valentine's sales dominated the month, another issue that popped up was store coverage when Michele became seriously ill with pneumonia.

The partners learned a valuable lesson in having trustworthy employees and family members who were able to fill in.

"We both have daughters who are high school seniors and need to look at colleges. She took off a Tuesday and Wednesday to look at schools," she recalls. " That night I flew out to California to look at colleges. Thursday I find out that she spent the day in the hospital. I am across the country. Thank goodness it was school vacation week. Our kids really rose to the occasion and pitched in."

Other employees also were able to keep things running smoothly until Norman could get back to the East Coast. "The girls that we have working for us are very honest and trustworthy and they know the business and how we like it done," she says.

The experience drove home just how much commitment owning a business takes.

"Usually when you come home from vacation you go to the supermarket, you do your laundry. I came right into the store," she says.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to:

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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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