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All's quiet at greeting card firm

Holiday rush is over, but heartprint sees a busy future

As the Christmas push hits full stride and retailers face the stress season, there's a calm around heartprint.

The holiday push is already over for the Medford-based greeting card company.

We were just going crazy a month ago, says Jan Jamisen-Gerke, heartprint's co-owner and only artist until earlier this year.

The quiet holiday season is a welcome change for co-owner Brad Cope, Jamisen-Gerke's son-in-law who bought into the company in 1997 after 20 years with Fred Meyer.

— — — — This design, — called Trio, will adorn one of heartprint's cards. — —

It's made a big difference, says Cope, who spent his last 10 years with Fred Meyer as a store director. We were able to take four days off over the Thanksgiving holiday. Typically, I wouldn't have been able to do that. I would have had to work right through it in retail.

Not that Cope has coasted since trading relative corporate security for entrepreneurial risk.

Our intention is to grow this into a major contender in the card market, he says. I didn't want to just muddle along in small business. I wanted to take it to the next level.

When Cope arrived in 1997, heartprint was doing about $800,000 a year in sales. He hopes to up that to $1 million to $3 million next year, $3 million to $5 million the year after that and to the $8 million to $10 million level in the next five years.

The company catalog, which is the focus this time of year, will grow from 20 pages last year to about 40 for 1999.

The company sells roughly 500,000 cards a year, marketing them at high-end gift shops in all 50 states as well as in Europe and Canada. In the Rogue Valley, the cards are available at Nook and Cranny, among other locations.

The cards all feature original watercolor art and are sold in packs of six and 12. The inventory features Christmas and Valentine's Day cards, as well as everyday cards.

The company has eight year-round employees and has about 20 workers during its peak times: from February to April when the new line of everyday cards is being released and from August to October to meet holiday demand.

Heartprint's cards and other paper products -- journals, address books, etc. -- are designed in-house and printed by Ram Offset Lithographers in White City.

Jamisen-Gerke has been the only artist for most of the company's history, although a second painter, Gwendolyn Babbitt, was hired in January. 2000, Cope hopes to have five artists and a photographer on board.

The company's line includes 100-150 images per year, a mixture of new pictures and top-selling carryovers. Of this year's 127 images, 52 are new.

Jamisen-Gerke estimates that she's painted nearly 300 designs over the years but isn't concerned about running out of material.

I have so many ideas I can't get them all down, says the self-taught painter, who spends three to four days on each painting.

Jamisen-Gerke, who founded the company in 1986, says Cope's arrival has turned heartprint around.

He's just a super business person, she says. I'm not a business person. I'm on the more creative side.

Part of Cope's push has been to add new products to heartprint's line -- primarily by selling its images to companies wanting to put them on everything from gift bags to T-shirts to mugs.

Once you have the images on the market, he says, the possibilities are just endless as to what you can do with it.

Artist and founder Jan Jamisen-Gerke works with her daughter, Sheri Cope, at heartprint, a Medford-based greeting card company. The firm is growing under the leadership of co-owner Brad Cope. - Photos by Bob Pennell