A steady stream of customers stop by Lauri’s Party House on a recent morning, most ordering a bouquet of helium balloons while chatting about a festival down the road. The store’s owner, Marcela Paparella, is grateful for the spurt of traffic.
Tucked among a strip of stores sometimes overshadowed by the neighboring Walmart, Lauri’s biggest challenge since opening last summer has been letting residents know where it is. An online map takes drivers to the wrong location.
Retail is a new venture for Paparella, who was laid off at the end of 2014 after 20 years with Hewlett Packard.
“I was lost,” he said of the weeks following the job loss. “I spent six months looking for another job but couldn’t find a fit.”
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His wife, Niosoty Paparella, suggested a totally different career path.
“She always wanted a store like this,” he said.
Specifically, he said, she wanted a party store. “It was completely alien to me,” he said.
Once he started seriously investigating the idea, he realized his wife might have hit upon something. With the closest party store more than 11 miles away in Cary, it was clear there was an unfilled niche in Holly Springs, where the couple has lived since 2001.
“The seed of the idea was in February 2015 and we opened that July,” he said.
Paparella said he started from scratch, including finding a name. His teenage son came up with Lauri’s Party House, though he meant it as a joke that referred to his younger sister. The rest of the Paparellas loved it, and the moniker stuck.
The store is stocked with paper goods, decorations and supplies for most any kind of party. Many are themed. One wall houses the myriad balloons available for sale. There are both mylar and latex ready to be filled.
“Balloons are the biggest seller,” Paparella said.
He is looking into offering online ordering and eventually delivery.
On the ceiling above the register is a mesh balloon trapper to help corral the merchandise. Before filling latex balloons with air, he squirts a special gel coating inside to extend its life.
Running a business has been a learning curve, Paparella said.
“The biggest surprise has been all the paperwork,” he said. “I figured people would give me money and I would give them the product.
“As simple as this store is, you still have to have staff.”
The staff increased by two positions recently when Paparella accepted a full-time job at Pfizer. Now he and his wife, a psychologist in Fuquay-Varina, are at the store Friday through Sunday and hand over the reins to their employees the other days.
“It’s fun,” he said. “We try to accommodate the customers. If we don’t have what they need, we will get it. We’re still trying to figure out what to carry.
“It’s long hours, but I was expecting that.”
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