UPPER TOWNSHIP — After 45 years providing last-minute gifts for all occasions, Village Card and Gift in the Wayside Village shopping center at 50 Tuckahoe Road is set to close.
“They’re just going to have to plan ahead,” joked one longtime employee.
The Gold Crown Hallmark store offers cards, gifts and collectibles. The owner, Patty Wyers, was beginning to consider whether it was time to retire when Dana Wilson, owner of the much smaller Yes She Can store on the other side of the shopping center, came in on March 13 and asked if she were interested in selling the building.
“I gave it a couple of days thought and I told her yes,” Wyers said.
The plan is to settle on the sale in June and for Wyers to sell off as much of her inventory by the end of July for the new, much larger location of Yes She Can to open in August. In a separate interview, Wilson said the move will mean far more space for her growing business, which specializes in bra fitting and women’s clothing.
She’ll be able to offer more dressing rooms and more style options, she said.
Wilson started the business as a mobile bra fitting service, opening in a permanent location in 2016, which allowed her to better match her schedule with those of her children. She said she outgrew the location in about six months. According to Wilson, Wyers wanted to sell to a young, female entrepreneur. She ran the business as a young mother, and with Wilson, 35, it would continue to support a young woman’s family.
Wyers had other reasons to consider retirement, she said in a recent interview.
As a young mom, she and her husband, John, lived in an apartment upstairs from the store.
“I always loved the Hallmark store,” Wyers said. “I came in one day and asked for a job and she said no. Then I came in with my 15-month-old daughter in my arms. She hired me.”
She worked at the store for more than three years, developing a relationship with then-owner Helen Vallese, who is now 96 and living in California. She said it became close to a mother-daughter relationship, with Vallese showing her how to run the business.
“I did everything for her here,” Wyers said. She said she asked Vallese if she would be willing to sell on her first day on the job. In October 1981, she bought the business.
“That first Christmas my husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer,” she said. “That was rough.”
Wyers said he went into the hospital on Dec. 22, which left her to face her first busy Christmas at the store without his help.
John Wyers, a self-employed truck driver for more than 30 years, lost a kidney because of a massive tumor. But after successful treatment he was cancer free. She said before the surgery, she asked the doctors about also removing his appendix and was told the insurance would not allow that. Three years ago, 35 years after that operation, he was diagnosed with cancer of the appendix, which she described as very rare.
It was found during a routine colonoscopy, she said.
“We’re still doing chemo three years later. Every month he has chemo. But he’s doing great. He shouldn’t even be here. We’re blessed to still have him,” Wyers said. “That’s one of the reasons why I’m retiring.”
She wants to spend as much time with her husband as possible, she said, and to be prepared if something changes. He feels well, she said, but three years ago, he was in the hospital for a month, with Wyers sleeping in his room each night.
He underwent a heated chemotherapy procedure called HIPEC at Hahnemann University Hospital, which Wyers said their daughters, Pam Griffin and Angie Wallace, found after extensive research.
“I just want to be prepared if he ever does have to go back in,” she said. “It’s a lot to depend on part-time employees to run your business.”
She said she’s had other offers for the business, but when Wilson made her offer it seemed like things fell into place.
Wyers declined to give the purchase price.
The sale is just for the building. She decided not to sell the business.
“I felt that if I could sell the building that I would just retire. Because I could sit here for years waiting for the right person to come along,” she said. Also, any new purchaser would need approval from Hallmark.
“It’s my baby. I don’t want anybody else to have it but me. It’s kind of selfish. I don’t want to sit here for a couple of years and not like it anymore. I’ve truly loved what I did every day,” Wyers said.
Since the sign went up announcing the store is going out of business, Wyers said, customers have been coming in and sharing their stories, including a woman who remembers saving up her allowance to buy trolls, those plastic dolls with the tufts of brightly colored hair that were popular at the time.
On a recent visit to the store, several long-time employees were on hand.
“We’ve become a family,” said Annamaria Fennekohl. Others said they were happy for Patty Wyers. Most had worked at the store for 10 or 20 years.
“I can’t get rid of them once I hire them. They stay forever,” said Wyers. “It’s a fun place. Most of the time when people come through the door, they’re shopping for a happy occasion.
She said she bought the store when she was 24. She is now 62. She grew up in Upper Township, where her parents originally opened the Whippoorwill Campground on Route 9. Said she and her husband were high school sweethearts. They now have nine grandchildren and a new puppy, a West Highland terrier named Clair.