By Christina Johnson
SHREWSBURY – Party Corner, the boutique at 19 Newman Springs Road East long known for tent and party supply rentals, is celebrating its own special milestone: 50 years of business.
But Party Corner wasn’t always about balloons, birthday candles and big events. Back in the 1970s, owner Keith “Spike” Klarin and his wife Pat ran a tool rental and supplies business at the site of the store, reserving a back corner of the store for folding tables, chairs, linens and dinner ware for rent. They told customers to check out their new rental section, the “party corner.”
“The party rental business grew quickly and was a lot easier and more profitable than renting out tools with gas engines that always needed repairs,” recalled Chris Ruch, who joined the firm in 1981 as manager. Ruch turned the spotlight on party rentals. With his wife Valerie, he bought the business and for the next 20 years, they turned up the volume on Halloween, weddings and especially the outdoor tent business, until it was purchased by the CEO and main investor, Philippe Cassous, eight years ago.
Today, Party Corner is an 8,000-square-foot destination store with a small warehouse in the back and a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in Ocean Township, open to the public at 1804 Brielle Ave. Both stores are open every day. The business has nine full-time employees and as many as 40 seasonal workers in the summertime to keep up with the outdoor party and wedding season.
Piñatas, paper goods and Halloween costumes draw foot traffic to the retail showroom. But Cassous’ vision is to keep offering customers something new and surprising. “We have had an explosion in the balloon business. It is doing incredibly well,” he said.
Party Corner has expanded its offering of specialty Mylar balloons, as well as the new, almost perfectly spherical Orbz balloons, and has a room dedicated to its designs which can be incorporated into arches and other displays. “I want to be the big balloon store,” said Cassous.
To defend against intense price-cutting competition from chain stores and online retailers, Cassous’ plan is to go upscale. In addition to consultants who focus on weddings and Christmas decor, he has added a dedicated floral decoration specialist. Inspired by trade shows he visited in Europe, he invested in richly colored linens, rustic farmhouse tables, cross-back and Chiavari chairs for weddings and lightweight sailcloth tents with wooden poles. “I wanted to bring that French touch to our rental items,” said Cassous, who grew up in France and owned an equipment rental business there.
Andrew Ruch, rental manager, has been working for Party Corner since he was a teenager in his parents’ store and has grown into his managerial position. General manager Maria Flynn and Ruch work together to help customers realize their vision.
Over the years, the Party Corner staff has enjoyed helping many customers achieve their special “moments to remember.” However, these days, more often than not Flynn is looking over their Pinterest palette of ideas, and pulling from her decades of experience and knowledge of store stock to achieve the look her clients are seeking.
“Everything is from experience now,” said Flynn, who started at Party Corner 23 years ago. She calls the staff her “family,” saying the store could not do the extraordinary things it does without the teamwork of the skilled specialists.
“All the little details…we can make it happen,” she said.
This article was first published in the Feb. 21-Feb. 27, 2019 print edition of The Two River Times.
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