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(Washington Post) — For nine years, Dawn Spencer has owned a Silver Spring shop that sells greeting cards. She has followed the life passages of her customers through the cards they buy, cards neatly arranged under familiar headings: Birthday, Graduation, Wedding, Anniversary, Get Well Soon.

And when the worst happens, Sympathy.

That’s a fate Dawn is hoping she can avoid. Her card and gift shop on New Hampshire Avenue in Colesville Center is called Patches. Battered by the weak economy, Patches is hurting.

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