Best of the Burgh Readers’ Poll Winners in Retail
We spotlight a Walnut Street shop that goes far beyond cards with a plethora of gifts and knick-knacks.
To those who buy holiday and birthday cards or small gifts at a chain store, Amanda Blair, a manager at Kards Unlimited, has a case for shopping small instead.
“I think stores like ours are still relevant and important because our staff is very lovely and they love to help you. And we know everything about our product and we love our product,” she says. “You know, there’s a lot of great customer service that you don’t get on Amazon and that kind of thing.”
Kards Unlimited — which Pittsburgh Magazine readers named Best Card and Stationery Store in the 2020 Best of the ’Burgh poll — was founded in 1968 by the current owner’s grandmother, who passed the business down through the family. Blair, who has been with the store for 14 years, is next in line to take over as owner.
She started working at the store while in grad school for speech-language pathology at the University of Pittsburgh. At that time, she realized that the field wasn’t for her, but another calling made itself known.
“I took some time and then realized I wanted to be back at the shop because it’s always been kind of a second home,” she says.
That “second home” feeling emanates through the shop walls, which are filled with everything needed to make a good gift, from silly wrapping paper and quirky bags to books, candles and of course, cards for all occasions.
The cards are not your typical Hallmark fare. Some are sassy and filled with colorful language; others reference pop culture and fandoms. According to Blair, everything in the store has been vetted by the employees.
The store recently set up a website so people could shop online while Kards Unlimited was closed due to COVID-19, and used its Facebook and Instagram accounts to chat with customers. Although the store is open again, according to Blair, speaking to customers one-on-one via social media is a different experience than chatting them up at the register.
“We ring people out at the counter and get into a conversation and there’s someone waiting and it’s kind of awkward because you want to keep talking,” she says. “So the sort of fun part about this whole weird thing is that we’ve gotten to know our customers a lot better and met so many great new customers.”
According to Blair, it’s not only the merchandise that brings people back — it’s the meaningful connections the employees make with every customer that walks through the doors.
“If I don’t know the answer, or someone doesn’t know the answer, we just call [Kristen, the current store owner] and we will put the customer on the phone with her and they will chat for 10 minutes,” she says. “We love that kind of thing.”
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