Small Town Tradition: Rhoads is a taste of old-fashioned shopping, with modern touches
âWe are really five stores under one roof. “
So says Dave Lutz, longtime owner of Rhoads Hallmark & ââGift Shop in Hummelstown, who owns the business with his wife Jeanne.
âWe have a Hallmark Gold Crown boutique, a gift shop, a women’s fashion boutique, a kitchen store and a candle store,â he said, explaining further.
Lutz bought the business in 1973, which many in the Dauphin County Borough consider a local landmark. In total, Rhoads comprises 16,000 square feet of commercial cornucopia on two floors and a comfortable guest lounge.
âWe carry a lot of cargo,â Lutz noted. âWe don’t let our goods go out of date. If it doesn’t move, we clean it upstairs with a 50-75% reduction.
Currently, Nora Fleming’s serving dishes, which feature editable design elements, are among the âhottest items,â Lutz noted. Another âamazingâ food brand is Stonewall Kitchen, which has a wide selection of jams, relishes, mixes and dressings, he said.
Rebecca Yearick of Mechanicsburg recalled that she had already been shopping “for a long time” to buy an “old-fashioned” ice bucket for a party, but just couldn’t find it. Then she spotted it, of course, at Rhoads – and it even came in brass.
You can tell Rhoads specializes in “old school” products, things that were once widely available in local stores but have become harder and harder to find.
For example, Yearick also promotes Rhoads items like address books, recipe card boxes, and Hallmark items. She additionally purchases sauces, jams and mixes from the Rhoads kitchen store, as well as ornaments.
In the women’s boutique, Rhoads sells jewelry, scarves and hats made from recycled materials through an exclusive deal with Brighton Jewelry, among many other items.
âThey have brands of women’s clothing that can’t be found in other department stores and at affordable prices,â Yearick said.
For Hershey’s Meghan Carpenter, Rhoads is a family affair.
She grew up browsing Rhoads products while accompanying her mother and late grandmother on shopping trips. Today, she and her mother Jill are still regulars at Rhoads, especially for the store’s Hallmark Keepsake Ornament series.
âThey have such a unique selection (at Rhoads),â Meghan said. âI love going there especially to buy baby gifts that you won’t find anywhere else, like their prayer animals and mother-baby figurines.â
And then there’s the small town feeling that Meghan said she gets every time she visits.
Part of the credit for this welcoming atmosphere goes to Rhoads’ list of 16 employees, many of whom have been there for 25 years or more.
âEveryone who works there is very nice,â she said. “They are all so willing to take the time to recommend the things you are looking for.”
Rhoads’ roots in the community of Hummelstown date back to 1931, when Wesley Sanford established his pharmacy there. In 1953, Simon Rhoads bought the company and renamed it Rhoads Pharmacy. He then redesigned the front of the building, remodeled the pharmacy, and added a gift shop.
In 1973, Rhoads sold the business to a young couple, Dave and Jeanne Lutz.
Dave had worked as a pharmacist under Rhoads before buying the company. Since then, they’ve renovated the store five times, expanding it by purchasing neighboring properties on both sides.
In 2018, Dave Lutz sold the pharmacy operations to CVS, as the corporate chain opened a Hummelstown store a few blocks away on East Main Street.
â(CVS) came to see me,â Lutz noted, after which he retired as a pharmacist.
After the sale, the business name was changed to Rhoads Hallmark and Gift Shop. Today, Dave continues to oversee the entire store while Jeanne oversees merchandise purchases by the store’s department managers.
For years, the Lutzs have attended six national trade shows each year to research the store’s unique merchandise, regularly visiting events in Atlanta, New York, and Philadelphia.
Then came the pandemic. In 2020, all shows were canceled. Dave Lutz has only attended one show so far in 2021, the only one to reopen, he said. In the meantime, most of the goods are purchased through online sellers.
Meanwhile, the store was forced to close for eight weeks from March to May 2020 due to pandemic orders from Governor Tom Wolf. However, Dave Lutz said business has since recovered.
âSometimes it’s even better,â he said. âForty percent of our annual turnover comes from the last three months of the year. “
As the company moves towards 50 years under its ownership, Lutz is proud of what they have accomplished.
âIt’s all gratifying,â he said. âWe’ve created one of the most popular stores in central Pennsylvania.â
Rhoads Hallmark & ââGift Shop is located at 17 W. Main St., Hummelstown. For more information call 717-566-2525 or visit www.rhoadsgifts.com.
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