Westlake Ace Hardware, 1010 Thompson Boulevard, held an open house event Saturday, Dec. 9 to celebrate the opening of its new Hallmark Gold Crown department.

Randy Kirby

That new department is located within the store and features over 700 feet of a variety of Hallmark Gold Crown products, including Keepsake Ornaments, greeting cards, gift wrap and seasonal décor items.

The Sedalia Area Chamber of Commerce held a red ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday to officially welcome Westlake to the Chamber and usher in a new era (and new customers) for the hardware store.

General Manager Brock Pflughaupt said he was excited to launch the new Hallmark department. In fact, his store is the third to implement the new Gold Crown addition, which he promised will be every changing with new inventory with new items arriving on average twice a week. "We'll change as seasons change," he noted. The other two stores with Hallmark Gold Crown departments are in Maryville, Mo., and Midland, Texas. "And they are doing fairly well," he added.

"It's definitely increased our foot traffic probably about 20 percent with just word of mouth," Pflughaupt said of his new department. "We also offer special orders. And if customers see something we don't have, and they know it's available on Hallmark.com, we're more than happy to order it and have it shipped right here to our store."

The store's "Keepsake" ornaments went on sale Nov. 9 and were so popular that the general manager special ordered more.

Pflughaupt said that it has been a learning experience to try something new, but he looks forward to interacting with Hallmark customers and helping out the community as well. "I know there's a lot of people in Sedalia who miss the (old) Hallmark store," he said.

Sedalia Mayor Stephen J. Galliher attended the grand opening and noted that the new addition is a major asset to the community. "When the other store closed, people got pretty upset, because Hallmark is one of the best cards, I think. Whatever Westlake does, they do it right," he said.

Westlake Ace Hardware is open 7:30 to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Phone (660) 827-3630.