Aug. 17 2009 12:00 AM

At 10 a.m., Barb DeRose hung bright neon signs in the display windows of her Barb's Hallmark, located at the intersection of Washington Square and Washtenaw Street in downtown Lansing.

"Going out of business sale," the signs read.

says the decision to close the store has been months in the making.
Monday kicked off a sort-of inventory liquidation sale, offering 40
percent off everything in the store.

“We’re not
making enough money,” DeRose, who has had the store for
eight years, said.

Regular customers would stop in the store almost daily, DeRose said, but they too have cut back on spending, which she blamed on the state and the country's sick economy.

This morning, a few of the store’s
regular customers walked by the storefront and paused to read the posters. As they entered the store, they
were unable to speak, so they stood in the doorway in silent shock.

“We have good
sales, and you like sales,” DeRose told them reassuringly,
joking that she should put a box of tissues at the register.

A few customers
complained that there will soon be no businesses left downtown — only
places to eat. DeRose agreed with the women.

“You might not be
able to go shopping downtown anymore, but you can always get lunch,”
she joked.

DeRose explained that
it’s not just the economy that has hurt her store, but also
local stores leaving the downtown area.

“When more and
more businesses leave downtown there is less of a reason to come here
to shop. With so few retailers left in the area it causes people to
not make the trip down on their lunch break to do some shopping,”
she said.

Several businesses have
closed or plan on closing on DeRose’s
block along Washington
Square. Next door to Barb’s Hallmark is the former Capital City
Books and Magazines. The storefront is dark, with only a large "for
lease" sign affixed to the window. The owner of Dollar Deal, four doors
down from
DeRose’s store, announced at the beginning of the month that the
store would be closing by the end of March.

A representative from the downtown Lansing Principal Shopping District did not immediately return a call for comment.

DeRose and a coworker — four in all work in the store —
are looking for new jobs in the area. Although she plans
on closing the store, she doesn’t want her customers to
be sad because the store will be around for a while.

“We have five
more weeks to go. I’m not saying goodbye just yet,” she said.