Balloons and Tunes, a beloved Carrboro party store, closed permanently on Saturday after 40 years of business.
Pat Garavaglia and Sharon Collins opened the store in 1980 and originally delivered balloons and singing telegrams, but due to security concerns following 9/11, they shifted their focus to balloons. They were well known in the Chapel Hill community for their balloon sculptures at events around the area, such as the balloon Old Well they used to make for UNC's FallFest every year.
Collins, a co-owner of Balloons and Tunes, said she and Garavaglia had hoped to retire and sell the store eventually. But they decided it would be best to close now because of the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty of what lies ahead.
"Two of our employees have gone, so we don't have that much staff, and we just felt like this was the time that we need to call it a day,” Collins said.
In the 40 years the store was open, it became known not only for its products, but also for its service.
Longtime customer Kara Hume first went to Balloons and Tunes for her daughter’s first birthday and has gone to the store for all her family celebrations since. She said what stood out to her about the store was what it did to help the Chapel Hill community.
“I work at UNC and do autism research, and for our Autism Awareness Month, they always gave us balloons for our events," Hume said. "I’m a breast cancer survivor; they did things for breast cancer — they just gave back so much to the community itself. I was just overall so sad that we're going to lose them."
The store also had a special place in the hearts of families beyond the Chapel Hill area.
Customer Shewanda Boone said ever since her son was young, she drove to Balloons and Tunes from Durham every year to get supplies for his birthday. After her daughter was born, she drove from Youngsville to give her the same experience.
“I had my daughter and it's like, you know, I have to go to Balloons and Tunes," Boone said. "So I would drive the hour and 30 minutes to Balloons and Tunes because it meant that much for me, for my daughter to have that same experience with the balloons.”
Collins said her favorite part about owning the store for 40 years was being able to be involved with so many celebrations and good memories in the community.
“When you think about our company, you think happiness,” Collins said.
She said because everyone who came into the shop was celebrating something or cheering someone up, they got to experience that vicariously when they helped the customer fulfill their wishes.
Collins said while closing was a hard decision, she is thankful for all the memories and experiences she had running the store.
“It's hard to say goodbye,” Collins said, “but we are so thankful to this community for everything they've done for us over the years.”
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