When Linda Underwood opened her gift shop and stationery store in the Gallery shopping center in 1984, you were likely to find typewriter ribbons and filing cabinets amid the Hallmark greeting cards and fine writing instruments. As the retail landscape has changed, Linda’s Hallmark has changed and thrived with it.
At the end of February, Underwood will be closing the Gallery location; she and the landlord could not agree on the terms of renewal for her 35-year lease. Linda’s Hallmark in Farragut, in the Village Green Shopping Center, will become the flagship store. This is the second week of a moving sale at the Gallery location.
Underwood makes it clear that she considers this next chapter in her business as much of a blessing as the past 35 years have been.
“I enjoy all the relationships, and just the entrepreneurial spirit of having my own successful business,” she says. “It’s been like a dream come true. A dream and a challenge.”
Underwood came to Knoxville from Chattanooga to study business at the University of Tennessee. When she wanted to open her own retail shop, the Gallery was being developed.
“It was location, location, location,” she says of the potential she saw there.
Her late husband, Al Underwood, encouraged her venture from the start. She lost him last March.
“He was my biggest cheerleader,” Underwood says. Al Underwood had worked his way up from a shoe department clerk at Rich’s to the president and CEO of Miller’s. “He lived and breathed retail.”
Predicting what buyers want is one of the most fun parts of her business. Every time she goes to market, she looks around for “this year’s Beanie Baby. A lot of gift stores rode that trend for a long time.”
She carries stationery and Hallmark-brand merchandise as well as gifts, collectibles, home décor and much more.
“We’ve had lots of success, and we’ve had some disasters,” Underwood says. “You just pick up your boots and keep walking.”
Over the years, she has had other locations – including on Chapman Highway and in Halls. She purchased the Farragut location from its previous owner and opened it as Linda’s Hallmark in summer 2011.
She is confident that her fan base will follow her to the new flagship.
“We’re not your ordinary Hallmark shop.”