Sometimes a good idea floats around, but not everyone is able to grab it and turn it into reality.
Matthew Murcek seized on such an opportunity earlier this year when he opened Inflate Balloons, a specialty store co-located with the Gretna Area Chamber of Commerce in Village Square near Highway 6/31 and Highway 370. .
“Everybody loves balloons,” said Murcek, a former McKinney’s Food Center employee who worked the balloon counter at the old grocery store.
When McKinney’s closed its doors this spring, Murcek said the community worried about where to find balloons.
“This space just opened, and everything worked out so that I could basically take over the existing business (from McKinney) and open my own,” Murcek said. “I always wanted to go out and do my own thing.”
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So while grocery shoppers might head to Fareway instead, or Hy-Vee once it’s open, balloon shoppers can stop by Murcek’s shop in Village Square to find what ‘they are looking for.
Inflate Baloons has more than 550 models, all published on the store’s website, inflateballoons.com. Shoppers can also browse in-person options by category, such as birthday, anniversaries, milestones, congratulations, or licensed characters.
Murcek said most of his business comes from birthday parties, though events like high school graduation are also a big part of the business. His store has designs for Gretna Dragons and he is able to match designs and colors to other themes.
A resident of Gretna since seventh grade in 2003, Murcek graduated from Gretna High School and worked at McKinney until it closed – minus about two and a half years when he left town, returning in July 2020.
McKinney’s originally had a video rental area in the store, which was later converted to balloons. Murcek helped develop the line of business and was able to choose new products.
“I just fell in love with it,” Murcek said. “Slowly it just grew and grew.”
As he continues to grow his own business, Murcek said he has a part-time position which he uses to supplement his income, but he hopes to make Inflate Balloons his full-time job. He used social media to supplement word-of-mouth from former McKinney clients.
“People recognize me,” he says. “Word is spreading that it is here.”
Murcek faces economic headwinds, such as inflation that tests all small business owners and consumers. Supply chain disruptions related to shipping and the pandemic have increased, and the country is currently facing another helium shortage.
Yet there are always silver linings. Murcek said he was able to keep tanks in stock when competition like Party City ran out.
“I have a contract with a company here in Omaha that I can get tanks from on a regular basis,” he said, adding that he was initially traveling outside of St. Joseph, Missouri, to get supply helium tanks.
Some customers are just looking to have balloons they’ve already filled, and Murcek said he was happy to do so – although he warned against buying poor quality balloons online, as they tend to deflate faster and may not float or otherwise behave. as expected, depending on where they come from, he said.
Customers can also schedule their balloons to be picked up shortly before an event, whether ordering in person or online. Murcek opens the Saturday morning store for pre-order sales to fill.
“It saves everyone time,” he said.