The Rise and Fall of the Hallmark Kid

By age ten Ryan Lipner was managing his fatherís Hallmark store. So how did this would-be greeting card tycoon end up in jail before his 18th birthday?

Lipner has an ugly side. Take, for example, an e-mail he sent to an attorney who represented a landlord attempting to evict Lipner from his store lease early this year. It begins: "YOU MEAN TERRIBLE JEW HATER. IM A LITTLE BOY WITH A 22 YR OLD... AND SHE IS PREGANT. YOU ARE A MAJOR ASSHOLE... IM THE FAMOUS HALLMARK KID NO ONE FUCKING TREATS ME LIKE SHIT... I PRAY TO GOD YOU GET CANCER OR SOME HORIBLE VIRUS YOU FUCKING KID HATER."

Lipner laughs about the e-mail. No, he says, there was no pregnant girlfriend. As for the threats and race-baiting, Lipner explains, "I was a kid. I had to use whatever means available to protect myself, you understand?"

During a series of interviews, Lipner willingly speaks of his youth and growing mania for all things Hallmark, but much of the tale could be confirmed only by his mother or father, neither of whom would grant an interview for this story. "It looks like I'm a crazy con artist," Lipner says gleefully in the midst of describing his life. "But this is the truth, and I want it in [the story]. I'm proud of myself; I'm happy with everything I've done."

"In these felonious 
times, take stock in 
the inventory
you possess.
When one door closes,
another opens-
then another,
then another,
then another.
Let not your dreams
bankrupt on reversal's
stony shoal."
"In these felonious times, take stock in the inventory you possess. When one door closes, another opens- then another, then another, then another. Let not your dreams bankrupt on reversal's stony shoal."
"Just a simple note
to cheer you
while you are confined.
Here's hoping
that the doctors
can bring calm to
your mind."
"Just a simple note to cheer you while you are confined. Here's hoping that the doctors can bring calm to your mind."

Ryan Lipner was born in September 1983 in Miami to Linda and Larry Lipner. The couple moved to Pembroke Pines, then divorced in 1992. (Both have subsequently filed for bankruptcy.) The court granted custody of Ryan to his mother, but the two did not get along. Lipner alleges that his mother at times hit him but stopped when he began resisting at about age eight. Larry Lipner bought a Hallmark store in Cooper City and another in Bradenton in 1992; the boy spent time at the stores during visits with his father. He wanted to live with his father, and a struggle over custody ensued. This clash seems to have fueled Lipner's obsession for all things Hallmark.

At one point Lipner spray-painted Ryan's Hallmark on the front of his mother's garage, dragged long tables from the house, and made paper cards to sell. "In my head I was very proud of myself," he says. "I just sat there all day staring at them in my driveway." The breaking point for his mother came when he trashed the house while rearranging it into a Hallmark store. His mother kicked him out, and he moved in with his father.

"Then my dream became real. After school my dad would pick me up, and I'd go to football practice, then I'd go to the store. It became a habit. I started to get obsessed with it." By age ten Lipner was managing Ann's Hallmark, his father's Cooper City store.

In the fall of 1994, when Lipner was 11 years old, he claims Hallmark was pressuring his father to sell the Bradenton and Cooper City stores to settle outstanding debts to the company. The father and son willingly sold the Bradenton outlet and paid Hallmark $150,000, Ryan claims. "[My] dad told [Hallmark] that my therapist said that, if the store was taken away from Ryan, it would mentally destroy him for the rest of his life," he says.

Nevertheless, one would-be buyer came close to buying the Cooper City shop. Rick Wilber owned four Lynn's Hallmark stores in South Florida and was interested in purchasing the Lipners'. In order to set a purchase price for it, Wilber and Hallmark tabulated the store's inventory. Ryan Lipner, however, claims to have tampered with the results of the report, inflating the value from $150,000 to $385,000. "He knew he was being ripped off," Lipner says. "Rick got into a big fight with me and my dad, and then he went away because he didn't want to get ripped off."

Wilber will not elaborate on the deal, saying only, "I just saw too many things I didn't like, and I pulled out."

Asked to explain in depth what the Cooper City store meant to him, the young Lipner responds: "It's not that store -- it's Hallmark stores. It can be anyone's fucking Hallmark store. I have friends with Hallmark stores, and it can be one of theirs. I gotta be looking at their logo. Every time I see a store with a Hallmark logo, I have to smile. When I look at a Hallmark sign, I see me. It makes me feel like I'm God. I feel like I have more power than anybody, than any human life form. Swear to God... more than any judge. I feel like I'm in total control, like I am the one. What I say, goes."

He recalls trying to juggle junior-high football practice with working at the store. "Sometimes I didn't want to show up to practice," he says. "I wanted to go to the store. I don't know why, but I just had to go there. My dad would say, "You're fucking crazy. What's your problem?' Eventually it got so out of control that he just left me alone. He'd pick me up after school, but he wouldn't argue anymore. When I turned 12, if Ryan wanted to do something, it wasn't worth arguing."


Lawrence Webb and Anna DiVietro became acquainted with Larry and Ryan Lipner in the late 1990s, an association Webb and DiVietro came to regret. The Coral Springs couple was in charge of an annual collectibles show in the area and was soliciting donations from businesses that sell brands such as Precious Moments and Vanmark. "That's how we got to know them," DiVietro says. "Ryan's extremely smart in a devious kind of way. He's always plotting something. I remember talking to Larry, saying, "You've got to rein this kid in.' He said, "No, he's having fun.'"

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1 comments
scott0313
scott0313

Ryan you are dillusional and you really need to get back on your meds. Oh BTW we're still waiting for you to pay back every penny that you owe to us.

 
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