Balloons were invented in England in 1824 and were used for scientific experiments by Professor Michael Faraday, who made the first balloons to aid in his laboratory experiments using various gases.
They weren’t meant to decorate parties and commemorations, but the lightweight, colorful balloons in various shapes ended up doing just that. Balloons are a way to call attention to a place, spell out a name or number, and add temporary frivolity to an event.
Balloons with a Flair is a Hamilton company that celebrates and marks events with balloons today. The company recently took up residence on the Nottingham Way parade route in the location that has housed the venerable Graycar Travel business for the past 50 years.
Launched in May 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Balloons with a Flair has now had its soft opening, and owner Jerry Deblasio, Jr. says he’s looking forward to hosting a grand opening this fall.
Deblasio sees his business having a physical location in a highly visible location as a logical next step. He previously operated the balloon business from his home and felt he badly needed more space.
Deblasio, 33, has worked in the area as a bartender and waiter since he was 15. When the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns hit, he knew he had to change course.
“I’ve always been one of those who threw big parties and I loved decorating and displaying big balloons. I erected elaborate installations every time I threw a party,” he says. “My family and friends always told me I had to do this as a business and I was always like, ‘Yeah, yeah, you think so?’ Then I laughed it off. »
But when the pandemic hit and he didn’t know when he could get back to work, he thought, what am I going to do now? So he posted a message on Facebook saying he was considering making balloon and event decorations.
“I posted it and went to bed. The next morning I woke up to over 200 replies and people wanting to book me,” says Deblasio.
When asked about some of the favorite decorating deals, Deblasio shares that many let their own vision be brought to their party.
“I love everything we do for clients, but personally I prefer it when a client tells me they trust me and just give me their event theme and/or color scheme and lets do all the creative work,” he says. “I really appreciate that, because it’s also a surprise for the client the day we deliver or organize their event. I like to see their reaction and their joy on their face, after seeing the arrangement.
He says he knew it was time to look for space to work when he started to get so overwhelmed with orders that he couldn’t fill them all while working from home.
“Plus, I want to give customers a lot more options,” he says. “I didn’t have the space at home to store all the objects. Having a location separates work from your personal life, and it also looks more professional.
Deblasio grew up in the Chambersburg section of Trenton and graduated from McCorristin High School. Her father, Jerry Sr., and mother Jill, are huge supporters and helpers.
Deblasio knows his parents’ strengths and couldn’t grow at this rate without them.
Deblasio now lives in Hamilton Square, within walking distance of the new Balloons with a Flair site.
“It wasn’t even a place I thought of, but when I walked in to check out the space, I immediately felt like it was home,” he says. “I could imagine what this company would become in the next few years. It’s also a very well-known and easy-to-find location for many people in the Mercer County area.”
There is plenty of parking behind the building and the location is close to a cluster of specialist businesses in the ‘Square’ of the intersection of Nottingham Way and Mercer Street.
While the business attracts customers from Hamilton and surrounding towns, Deblasio has also attracted interest from outside the region, as far away as Millstone, Freehold and Colts Neck.
“You’d be very surprised if we travel a lot more for parties than for local parties,” he says. “We host our fair share of parties in Hamilton, but most of our events are more than half an hour from our location.”
He wasn’t in business before the pandemic, but as inquiries come in for more large-scale events, he says he feels party-related business is coming back after tough times. “Everyone just wants to enjoy life now and create memories, and that’s what we’re here to help customers with,” he says.
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So how do you know what to order for a party or event? Deblasio says they work with very small to much larger budgets. The event planner only needs a few inputs, such as color, shape, size, and a theme, if applicable.
“When a client calls us, they’ll either tell us what colors they’re working with, or tell us what kind of theme, and then we’ll ask some simple questions just to get an idea of what kind of client you’re working with, try to find a budget that they want to stay with,” he says. “And then we’ll show them or give them different options or ask them if they have any pictures they’ve seen online that they used as an example. Then we do our best to be creative and knock them out of the park with our designs for their event.
In these times of heightened environmental awareness, questions arise about balloon safety, ecological footprint and sustainability. Deblasio shares that 95% of the balloons he uses are filled with air, with the remaining part filled with helium.
“The biggest question that is always asked is about the use of helium and our answer is no,” he says. “As we always tell our customers, helium is an expensive and rising gas. It will therefore be more expensive for any type of decor to use helium. There is also a limitation of what you can do with helium filled balloons. So our goal is to create and assemble beautiful air-filled displays. These will outlast helium and look so much better than a few balloons tied to a weight.
As for environmental concerns, Deblasio shares that all of the balloons they use are biodegradable. So if a ball or two aren’t picked up in the yard, they break down and decay.
June is the busiest month for the balloon business, says Deblasio. Between graduations, birthdays and wedding anniversaries, he estimates they threw nearly 70 parties in June this year. In a typical month, the number would be closer to 35.
Deblasio sees that having a showcase helps the business by allowing people to see sample arrangements and get advice by visualizing the decor they want to have for their event. For now, it offers consultation hours by appointment only, but in the fall, it hopes to have additional help and offer standard hours of operation for walk-in clients.
“We are planning to do a grand opening this fall. We hope to have regular opening hours so that customers can pick up their orders. We’re also looking to bring more rental-style decor elements for customers, such as walls of greenery,” he says.
Being on the parade routes for Hamilton’s Saint Patrick’s Day and Memorial Day gives the location high visibility. Deblasio hopes Balloons with a Flair will be a mainstay in the community, just like Graycar was.
“At the end of the day, we just want to be one with the community,” he says. “We want to build relationships with clients where they continue to use us for all of their events. As our motto says, “Come as a customer, leave as a friend”.