Six weeks. That’s how long it took Linda Potter to plan her Halloween party each year. Much of that time, some 15 years ago, was spent searching for decorations and party favors.
“I’d go around, but I never could find anything good, the really fun kind of things,” Linda says.
She often had to make those fun things, and many of the basic things, for her annual pumpkin party.
A gift buyer for Nordstrom at the time, Linda and her then banker husband Mark dreamed of a store with a better selection of party gear. Thirteen years ago they opened that store: Everything Party in Redmond. Seven months ago they opened a second Everything Party store at The Landing in Renton.
With 9,000 square feet of party goods, Everything Party stocks enough Halloween decorations to outfit several of Linda’s ghoulish parties each fall. But booming October business has canceled Linda’s parties during the last several years.
She and Mark have been too busy helping shoppers throw their own parties for Halloween — and every other kind of event.
Kids’ birthdays account for most of the store’s business. Then there are graduations, retirements, wedding anniversaries, luaus, and all the holidays and seasonal celebrations in between.
Shelves, bins and racks in the airy store are heaped with invitations, stickers, toys, plates, wigs, megaphones, balloons, and virtually every other party accessory, in every color of the rainbow.
Everything Party is stocked with more than 30,000 items purchased from more than 300 companies.
That breadth of selection, plus competitive pricing, gives the Potters plenty of ammunition to take on the corporate big boys, including Target and national chain Party City.
Most of the seven employees at Renton’s Everything Party are trained party experts ready to offer party-planning assistance.
“People not only don’t have the time to shop, they don’t have the time to be creative,” Mark says. “They want the best party, but they don’t have the time to think about it.”
The “extra creative ideas” supplied by Everything Party staff is part of what Mark says has made the Redmond store a success.
With 22 employees, the Redmond Everything Party is about 25 percent bigger than the Renton store.
Another part of Everything Party’s success is the Potters’ belief that they do more than sell stuff.
“This is corny, but we feel like we don’t sell stuff — we’re selling the event,” Mark says. “We have the stuff, but that’s not really what people are buying. It’s all events. The stuff is just a vehicle to have them.”
Still, the Potters want to keep selling their party stuff. So far, they’ve been keeping up sales and weathering the recession just fine.
“These are not high-ticket items, and people aren’t going to give up celebrating key moments in their life,” Mark says.
By next Halloween he expects to be “very happy” about the business at Everything Party in Renton.
That would put him in the same mood of most of his customers, who come in excited about celebrating their next big event.
And why shouldn’t they be excited shopping at a store called Everything Party?
“No one has everything, but we feel confident we have the best and the broadest selection of everything for parties,” Mark says.