But now, retirement age is upon the current owners, Doug and Carol Campbell. Though they’d like to see the business at 1210 Adams Ave. continue, no one’s shown an interest in buying it.
So the only option left is to shut the doors.
“This decision is very, very difficult,” Carol Campbell said with tears in her eyes last Friday.
Though both Campbells feel a strong affinity for the downtown La Grande landmark, the decision to go out of business seems to have hit Carol the hardest. She can scarcely remember a time when McGlasson’s wasn’t a part of her life.
Born and raised in La Grande, the former Carol Paris knew the Max McGlasson family well. She said her family and the McGlassons have been friends since she was a little girl.
“We always were very close,” she said.
McGlasson, originally from Dallas, Ore., opened the stationery store in 1954, at a location in the 1400 block of Adams. He also owned stores in Enterprise and in Sunnyside, Wash., though eventually he decided to sell those and concentrate on the La Grande operation.
He ran the Adams Avenue shop for 28 years before selling it to Jody Presley. Presley in turn sold it to Charlene George. The store kept the McGlasson name through the two changes in ownership.
George, who later married Ralph Giuffre, had big plans for improvements. Most of all, she wanted to strengthen the relationship with the Hallmark greeting card company.
She wanted McGlasson’s to be a Hallmark Gold Crown business, a designation that would give her distinct marketing advantages.
But without more floor space, McGlasson’s couldn’t qualify. To solve the problem, Giuffre moved the enterprise to its current location, on the main floor of the Berry Building. Eventually, she would sell the business to an employee.
a bitter-sweet time: Carol Campbell receives a consoling hug from good friend and helper Patty Sandoz as Carol tries to explain what the store and her customers have meant to her over the past nine years. Although looking forward to the new opportunities the selling of their store will bring Carol and her husband Doug, she says it’s still difficult to see it end. - Observer photos/CHRIS BAXTER
Carol Paris graduated from La Grande High School and went on to earn a degree in home economics and business at Oregon State University.
After college, she lived in California and spent some time in Portugal. She returned to La Grande for good in 1973. In 1986 she married Doug, who was a chemistry professor at Eastern Oregon University.
In the early 1990s, Carol went to work for Giuffre. Soon she found herself deeply immersed in the business. She started out as a sales clerk, but Giuffre recognized her retail skills and appointed her store and office manager.
In 1999, Giuffre was ready to call it quits, but was having some trouble finding a buyer for the store. At that point, the Campbells became business owners.
“The store was going away, and I felt we had to rescue it,” Carol said.
She said she always believed in small businesses that emphasize customer service and satisfaction, and wanted McGlasson’s to continue in that vein.
“The general feeling is happy and pleasant,” she said. “We’re helpful here. We do whatever we can to make life better.”
Doug continued to work at Eastern until 2000, when he retired and turned full-time attention to McGlasson’s.
“I like being busy, and I do like working with people. And of course, I wanted to help Carol,” he said.
Never one to shirk civic involvement, Doug became a driving force in the La Grande Downtown Development Association, a group dedicated to improving downtown’s business climate. He served a term as the group’s president and also sat on the board of directors.
“I feel like we made some gains in strengthening downtown,” he said. “I’m comfortable things will be functioning well. We’ve got some good people filling in.”
Campbell said he has always considered it important for downtown businesses to maintain a good relationship with EOU. That was a focus of many of his efforts, he said.
“I was glad to have the chance to help with that,” he said.
A number of factors came into play in recent months as the Campbells wrestled with the decision to close the store.
A big one was the need to renew participation in Hallmark’s point-of-sale system. They would have had to commit for five years, and didn’t really feel like they wanted to do that at this point in their lives.
Then too, it is becoming increasingly difficult for family-owned shops on small-town main streets to stay open.
More and more, people go to the “big box” outlets when they need a greeting card or something for the office, said Carol.
“That’s not just here in La Grande, it’s everywhere. It’s a nationwide problem,” she said.
So the inevitable, irrevocable decision is to allow the McGlasson name to fade away into time.
The stock is being liquidated and furnishings and equipment are being sold to other local businesses. The store, which employs seven people, will close when everything is gone.
The Campbells said they look forward to spending more time with family and generally enjoying their retirement. Still, the decision to close leaves them with a bittersweet feeling.
“It’s all about the people — having a chance to be helpful and giving them a good place to shop. We’re going to miss the people most of all,” Carol said.