If You’ve Got An Ounce Of Feeling, Hallmark Has A Ton Of Sentiment

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THE HEADQUARTERS is five interconnected seven-story buildings backed into a hillside like gray Lego constructions. Outside, an occasional crown announces itself. Inside, the crown motif is relentless, down to the chandeliers. Westward from headquarters sparkles Crown Center—a five - hundred - million - dollar complex supervised by a Hallmark subsidiary. There an immaculate Hall’s department store murmurs “good taste.” Across a plaza that contains an iceskating terrace and a Calder stabile are a score of boutiques, a posh condominium and apartment development, and the Crown Center Hotel, rising out of a limestone cliff. The cliff, complete with waterfall and foliage, forms part of the lobby. Northward two hundred yards rears a twenty-eight-story building and beyond that the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where a year and a half ago two skywalks gave way during a tea dance, killing one hundred and thirteen people and injuring over two hundred others. The hotel is back in operation now, and the Crown Center Redevelopment Corporation is sure the facility will regain the public’s trust.

“Trust,” like “taste” and “very best,” is a touchstone at Hallmark. In the headquarters there is an atmosphere that all is well and will continue so. A public relations man confides: “I worked in government and had to quit because there were so many klutzes. Here everybody knows their job and does it well.” Thus, management trusts that each product line will emerge attractive enough and various enough to snare most sentiment seekers. If a card fails, the computer ensures the concept will be discarded and a new one created. The new card, in good taste and carefully focused, will come down a folding chute somewhere in a Hallmark factory, if necessary at a one-million-per-shif t rate. At the plant in Lawrence the supervisor of production stood and mused as the machines clanked, hissed, stamped, cut, silk-screened, folded. “You know,” he said, “we automate as much as we can, but you still can’t take the personal touch out of a greeting card.”

 

The cards whiz past, on their way to plastic bags and then to distribution centers and then to the Hallmark counters. One of them fits virtually every occasion a customer might encounter. Perhaps the time is right for Hallmark Lights, a new line of cards to allow young people to communicate lightheartedly and at a distance. Perhaps one of the new ready-made occasional cards strikes home: congratulations on a nurse capping, new job, new apartment, new pet. Or maybe what’s wanted is something for an old holiday like Halloween that’s receiving fresh emphasis (“You know,” says Daniel Drake, “we sell them in England, and they don’t even celebrate Halloween in England”). Whichever, Hallmark trusts that one or another concept will strike you, that something will articulate your particular sentiment. Something made for you, something quick, convenient, and the very best money can buy.