ANDOVER — Cheryl Mercer has always enjoyed throwing parties, especially for the preschoolers she taught for 12 years in Augusta.
“I’m kind of creative,” she said. “We would do different themes. The kids absolutely loved it.”
Now she’s trying to cater to party throwers and goers of all ages by opening Perfect Party. The store will hold a grand opening with free pizza, popcorn and cotton candy Saturday.
Mercer has a practical streak as well.
For instance, she says she chose the location on Andover Road because “40,865 cars every day” drive past its nearby intersection with Kellogg.
And she didn’t try to enter the retail world alone, instead paying a Las Vegas-based company called Discount Party Store Developers to help her with inventory, vendor credit, point-of-sale technology and more. Among other things, a crew from the company stocked the entire 2,500-square-foot store with about 55,000 items in less than a week.
“It felt like ‘Extreme Makeover,’ ” she said. “It is an amazing company.”
It’s not a chain, though, and Mercer said she has the final decision on which items to stock. For instance, she ordered hats, wigs and other gear in the team colors of 15 local schools, “so no one feels left out,” and is also carrying tote bags made of recycled feed bags by her aunt.
Mercer earned a business degree from Wichita State University before going into teaching, but says she’s “learned more in the past six months than I did in any class.”
She learned, for example, that there is a shortage of helium right now, sending prices up and making the balloon business a little less profitable than it might otherwise be.
She still carries hundreds of balloons, though, and has also learned about a product called “High Float” that helps keeps balloons lighter than air.
“We did one and it stayed up for three weeks,” she said.
She says she also has learned that young girls like costumes, games and other products in the Monster High line – “I don’t know why.”
Most of all, she’s learned that it’s a lot of work. The store is open seven days a week, and Mercer is there most of the time. She said she couldn’t do it without help from her husband, Jim, who’s an executive at Hawker Beechcraft, other family and friends.
“This is kind of a new adventure for me,” she said.