MARGATE — Barry Lipson spent decades in the garment business in New York, merchandising and designing boys’ and men’s fashions.
He was semi-retired in 2009 when he and his wife, Bobbi, bought the Margate Card & Gift Studio on Ventnor Avenue.
These two very different careers — one involving male clothing styles, the other, greeting cards and gifts — can be surprisingly similar.
“A good eye is a good eye,” said Lipson, 68, of Margate. “I can spot winners most of the time.”
The shop carries cards from Hallmark and Papyrus as well as an assortment of home gifts, children’s books, costume jewelry, some clothing and other items.
When Lipson bought the long-running business, he wanted to shift some of the merchandise away from souvenir-style gifts, a change he rolled out gradually.
“We didn’t want to lose the customer and we wanted to attract a customer looking for a nice gift for themselves and their home,” he said.
“We wanted to morph into gifts. Everything is medium priced. We try to top out at $50 because of the economy, and we want to attract more people,” he said.
Racks of merchandise display soaps and lotions, painted takeout menu boxes, gifts for weddings and showers, hats, scarves, handbags and other items.
Being in a resort area, Lipson said, hostess gifts for summer parties and barbecues became an important area for the business.
“We saw a need for that and as we kept putting it in, it was getting better and better. And that was the light bulb moment,” he said.
Greeting cards also are a big component of the business.
The Greeting Card Association, a Washington, D.C.-based, trade group representing card publishers, said Americans spend about $7 billion to $8 billion a year on cards. Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are the leading seasonal cards — with Christmas cards alone accounting for 1.6 billion cards, the group said.
At Margate Card & Gift Studio, the surprise trend of 2013 involved neither cards nor home gifts, but instead a toy called a rainbow loom used to make rubber band bracelets.
Lipson credits his daughter and grandchildren for bringing this trend to his attention early in the year.
He contacted the manufacturer and started carrying the item in April.
He estimates he sold more than 1,000 kits in addition to other accessories. The trend grew through the summer. Rainbow looms were even featured in a New York Times article on Aug. 31 detailing the sudden popularity of the item.
“It was the first time I’ve ever been in on a fad from the beginning,” Lipson said.
Contact Brian Ianieri:
Margate Card & Gift Studio
Location: 8017 Ventnor Ave., Margate
Owners: Barry and Bobbi Lipson, of Margate
Started: 2009 under current ownership
Employees: 4 part time