STERLING – Sterling will soon get its final Hallmark moment.
On Feb. 16, Kirlin's Hallmark will close after four decades at Northland Mall.
Its parent company, Quincy-based Kirlin's Inc., also is shutting down stores in Elk Grove and Akron, Ohio.
The local Hallmark, which employs 13 people, used to be at the west end of the mall, but moved to its current eastside spot in 1998.
Jean Deets has worked at the store since 1976, and became its manager in 1985. She stepped down in 2009, working part time ever since.
"When I started, you could hardly walk down the mall on Friday nights because there were so many people," Deets said.
Things changed when Walmart opened, she said, but the local Hallmark store "stayed strong all these years."
The trend in retail is big-box stores. Now, at least four places in the mall are unoccupied, including the spot that had been home to Urban Outlet, a clothing store that recently moved downtown.
On Jan. 24, Hallmark employees received word that their store was shutting down. A closing sale started Friday.
The announcement came from "out of the blue," Deets said. "The district manager came one day and said we're closing. We've had a lot of customers express their sadness."
Candy Parks of Rock Falls had a basket full of items at the store.
"It's sad," she said. "Another store closing. Another empty place."
Laura Sievert, marketing director for Kirlin's in Quincy, said her company never takes lightly a decision to close a store.
"In today's economic climate, you have to be in a profitable location," she said. "It's lease negotiations this time of year, so it's the time of year when we open and close stores. There were great employees at the [Sterling] store. They have been very professional."
The company has 90 Hallmark stores.
"We opened five stores in Chicagoland and one in Missouri in the last 4 months," Sievert said.
The nearest Hallmark is in Dixon – Pam's Hallmark.