It was an exciting Tuesday afternoon for The Balloon Squad owners Sheila and Bryant Fluker, as supporters gathered for their ribbon cutting inside Columbiana Centre.
The couple opened their first store on Two Notch Road, but decided to expand to the Harbison area. The Balloon Squad location in the mall will still offer pickup, delivery and curbside orders, but will be more retail-friendly, according to Sheila.
"We're really, really excited. There's definitely more foot traffic [at the new store] than our Two Notch location. It seems clients enjoy being able to shop in the mall, then come back and get their balloons," she said.
Sheila, who is a veteran along with her husband, never expected she would become the owner of a balloon business. "I did a medical retirement after I got hurt in Iraq," she said. "I went through some depression and PTSD. Then, I was introduced to balloons and it became an outlet, and then I made a business out of it."
All employees she and Bryant hire are also military-affiliated. Fluker said they plan to franchise the business within the next five years. The military affiliation will remain a requirement for employment.
The Balloon Squad offers a variety of balloon decor, all latex balloons are biodegradable, and customers can also choose options from a catalogue in-store.
"We have a slogan of, 'if you can celebrate it, we can decorate it.' We have custom balloons you can put photos and logos on, anything like that," said Fluker.
The balloon business has not only brought joy into Fluker's life, but she said it also brings happiness to her customers. "It's important for us to spread that joy and smile. That's been the most exciting part. Helping people feel better - you just never know what someone is going through," she said.
The Balloon Squad is beside JC Penney, in the former GNC location. In addition to in-store pickup, curbside pickup and delivery is available. More information can be found on the company's Facebook page.