This is no minor bump in the road, ladies and gentlemen. The shuttering of one of Kansas City’s most prestigious retail operations by arguably it’s most prestigious, locally headquartered corporation is not a good sign. Not a good sign at all.
Check out how Halls describes its Plaza location on its website:
“Halls Plaza is a luxuriously appointed jewel in the crown of Kansas City’s most famous and prestigious shopping district, the Country Club Plaza.”
Got that? Halls Plaza is the jewel in Kansas City’s crown jewel, that being the Plaza.
“Women of style can expect to find couture and designer clothing, accessories and shoes, exclusive cosmetic lines, extensive china, silver and crystal selections (including Kansas City’s best bridal registry) and the city’s most distinctive gifts. Men depend on Halls Plaza for the finest quality business and casual clothing, shoes and accessories, impeccable tailoring and prompt personal service. Halls Plaza also houses a fabulous Jewel Room, and, of course, a Hallmark card shop.”
I remember dashing into Halls Plaza one Thanksgiving in 1997 to catch Spade at the end of a somewhat lonely couple of hours hawking her handbags, prior to her becoming a household word.
So it’s a really, really big deal that Halls Plaza is closing. Even though Halls was largely able to spin the announcement yesterday as being a bonanza for downtown where its new 60,000 square foot Halls store will replace what’s left of Halls Crown Center after the addition of the Sea Life Aquarium and Legoland Discovery Center a couple of years back cut back on the store’s size.
By the way, the expansion and migration of Halls to the third floor of crown Center helps to explain the coming-this-summer demise of the American Heartland Theater.
But again, don’t buy into this as a coup for Crown Center.
Roughly half the employees at the 48 year-old Halls Plaza will reportedly bite the dust and be laid off once the smoke clears on the consolidation. Combined with the loss of however many of the small retail operations on the third floor of Crown Center that are likely to go away to make room the new Halls.
So it won’t be pretty.
Especially not with the hulking, block-sized Halls Plaza building sitting empty going into the Christmas shopping season, while the Plaza ponders whether to convert the store’s second floor into a parking garage.
So what’s all this really all about?
It’s about the decline and possible fall of Hallmark Cards, a Kansas City institution.
Just as far fewer people read physical newspapers and magazines, fewer and fewer people are buying and sending paper greeting cards.
It’s the Internet, stupid.
And while Hallmark is doing anything and everything it can think of to stem the tide of red ink – while laying off hundreds, if not thousands and closing Hallmark stores – it’s yet to figure a way to replace its paper card profits with E Card profits and the like.
It’s a jungle out here, people.
At least for companies that are being, you might say, outsourced by a New Economy. Dare I call it a New Age Economy?
For decades many locals have speculated and believed that Hallmark Cards subsidized many, if not most, of the retail operations at Crown Center. Including its own. And probably the Halls store on the Plaza.
Because it could afford to.
Greeting card profits in the days of old might be said to have been usurious, kinda like newspaper profits, until the last handful of years. However, while newspapers still have a shot at remaining vital – owing to their huge role as providers of news and information – the jury’s still out on the greeting card industry.
Once upon a time for many (dare I say women), it was de rigueur to send greeting cards for holidays and occasions ranging from birth to death and just about everything imaginable in between.
Far less so today.
The jury’s still out on what will happen to Kansas City’s once mighty Hallmark Cards and Crown Center over the next 10 years.
Unfortunately whatever that fate may ultimately be will likely render the loss of Halls Plaza a very tiny blip on Kansas City’s business and pop culture radar.