Party Creations offers floral and balloons
Bud Chapman had been selling propane gas for several years when he had the idea to open a rental store in the early 1990s. His plan was to focus on renting hardware, but his wife and co-owner, Marty, was more interested in the party and event segment of the equipment rental industry.
The husband and wife team opened Party Creations near downtown Springfield, Ill., as a sales and rental store in 1993, and they have worked together over the years to grow the business into a two-location, award-winning operation with a full-service floral department.
The couple’s commitment to their family, their company
and their community is evident in all aspects of the way they run their business. Each of their three children has worked at least part-time at the store. Their youngest daughter, Kelly, a former ARA Foundation Scholarship recipient, joined the company full-time after graduating from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
The couple decided to move the store to its current location in 2007, when the business started outgrowing its original space. The building was previously used as a Stanley Steemer office, so some renovation was needed to make the space fit their needs. They took six weeks to add a back room for storage and cleaning facilities, and removed several walls in order to make space for displays in the front.
In addition to an ample supply of tents, event and wedding decor and other party and event essentials for rent, Party Creations started a full-service floral department in 2000. They now employ a full-time floral designer who works with customers to design unique and personal events.
“One of our former employees had previously worked in a floral shop, so he really got us going on the floral side. This is one thing that really sets us apart from other rental stores. We see the floral part of an event as more than simply centerpieces on each table. Callie, our full-time floral designer, is so creative and has an amazing knack for design. She spends time with customers talking about their events, so she can match the floral aspect to the overall feel. She also has the ability to hand-draw a concept for a customer while they’re talking about it, so that by the time the conversation is over, both she and the customer have agreed on what that piece of the event will look like,” Bud says.
For planning other aspects of events, staff members have started using PartyCAD to help map things out.
“This is a great system for planning an event. It really helps us see how things are going to work out and the best placement for various elements of an event. On more than one occasion we’ve gone in thinking things would work one way, but for whatever reason, they had to be done differently. This program helps us see that before we get to the site,” Marty says.
Balloon arrangements also are an important part of their business. From centerpieces to arches and balloon sculptures, they tailor projects to the needs of the client. The Party Creations delivery crew is trained in the transportation and installation of these large pieces in order to keep them in the best condition during the process. While this is traditionally a very successful area for Party Creations, the helium shortage in 2012 all but halted this aspect of the business.
“Like the full-service floral department, this is something unique we can offer customers. This is one reason our clients come to us,” Marty says. “We couldn’t get helium at all last year, which pretty much put a stop to our balloon business. For the most part, customers were surprised, but understanding. For now, we have access to helium again and our clients are starting to come back for that,” Marty says.
Party Creations serves the usual mix of corporate and private clients, but also has rented equipment for some high-profile projects in Springfield. When “Legally Blonde 2” came to the state Capitol for filming of the interior shots, they rented several items for the project.
In 2008, a number of scenes in the movie “The Informant!” were filmed at the Illini Country Club in Springfield. The Chapmans received a call requesting rental items for the filming and they accepted the job. They rented china, glassware, tablecloths and pipe and drape in addition to creating floral arrangements for use in the movie. They took the job in stride, fitting it into their schedule and treating it like any other order.
“On the floral side, we mostly designed table arrangements with a couple of bigger arrangements for the entry into the club. They really transformed the place to make it what they needed. We weren’t sure if any of the scenes with our pieces would make it into the final film, but there is one scene where the tablecloths, china and floral arrangements are all there. It was very exciting and it was fun to do something out of the ordinary. We also were proud to be in a project like that. We heard the film crew comment on our floral arrangements, saying that our florist produced a contemporary look that was exactly what they had wanted. We would absolutely do it again if given the chance,” Marty says.
The Chapmans also enjoy being involved in their community and they have found several ways to support community events.
Each year, the Lincoln Memorial Gardens Indian Summer Festival brings music, artists and vendors to the community. Party Creations provides the tents for this celebration that draws crowds from Springfield and surrounding areas.
Marty also serves as the Community Education Chair on the board of directors for the Springfield Old Capitol Art Fair. One aspect of this position is helping award six scholarships to high school students based on their artwork submissions. In addition to her work with the board, Party Creations provides the centerpieces for the Patron’s Dinner.
“It’s an intense weekend during a really busy time of year for us. Because of our dependable support staff, I’ve been able to get away and participate in this exciting event in our community,” Marty says.
The annual Festival of Trees in Springfield brings an opportunity to showcase the company’s decorative skills. In 2012, Party Creations won “Best in Show” for its re-creation of a 1950s living room at Christmas. “We had everything right down to the old TV, which wasn’t
easy to find,” Bud says.
The couple and their company have received many awards and recognitions from the community, all of which speak to their professional approach to a business about which they care deeply. Marty was nominated for Business Entrepreneur of the Year in 1998 and received the Small Business Person of the Year award from the Springfield Chamber of Commerce in 2001. In addition, Party Creations was voted the best party/wedding rental store in Springfield in 2012 by residents in a poll conducted by the local newspaper.
“This is a really big deal for our businesses in the area,” Marty says. “These awards really pull a lot of weight around town and can draw in new customers. Our professional, personable crew and our ability to seamlessly coordinate so many aspects of an event helped earn us this distinction. It’s not just what we do, but how we do it that matters.”