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One could say Alan Hurtado was born to be a business owner. He began selling balloons at fairs and carnivals while in high school, even using a homemade balloon cart with wheels. When he stopped selling the balloons after high school, he thought he’d never have to deal with balloons again.
He was wrong. Hurtado, the owner of Party Connexion in Fords Prairie, now sees them on a daily basis.
“Now I have a party store with balloons, so that’s kind of an inside joke,” Hurtado said.
Hurtado has been an official business owner since he graduated high school in 1986. His dad had a TV repair shop and at that time is when the big 10-foot satellite dishes were popular. So Hurtado spun off and began selling those, along with home theater systems and the wiring that went along with it. Even to this day he’s a certified licensed electrician in Washington state, though his days of wiring are long gone.
He did that for about three years, until 1989, when David’s TV and Appliance on South Gold Street needed someone to run its TV repair, satellite and home theater section. So Hurtado and his dad merged with David’s. Around that same time, Hurtado hired Brent Canfield, who would end up becoming manager of the store for years.
In 1995, the owner of David’s wanted to retire, so Hurtado took over and started running the entire operation. After moving locations a few times, the building it was located at in 2007 flooded during the big flood. While the product and building were insured, the company couldn’t recover from a lack of business for six months while it was being rebuilt. The 2008 recession was the final blow to the company.
Before that, around 2000, Hurtado opened a dollar store at Fairway Center, which was also damaged by the 2007 flood. The party side was one of the biggest departments within the dollar store. So in 2009, Hurtado changed locations to Harrison Avenue and changed the name to Party Connexion. The store had some extra space and Hurtado, who had been in the furniture business for 10-15 years at a previous store, decided to include mattresses as well. They also are a sales agent for Graceland Portable Buildings, which are small, pre-built storage sheds. Canfield eventually returned to help manage the store after having left for some time.
Business-wise, COVID-19 pandemic was actually a little worse than the 2008 recession, Hurtado said, mainly because he was forced to close Party Connexion for two and a half months, from mid-March to June 2.
“Now our business is actually fairly decent,” Hurtado said. “I can’t complain about now.”
Another hit came in the form of a lack of wedding rentals, where the store normally rents out tables and chairs during the summer. It saw a lot of cancellations in July and August as wedding venues were postponed.
Party Connexion is now in the midst of its biggest part of the year: Halloween. It’s even bigger than Christmas, which is actually a low season for the store, if one can believe it. People usually bring out their own fine China for Christmas dinner and so forth, rather than use throwaway tableware like Party Connexion offers.
The store offers pretty much everything for Halloween, however, including a large selection of makeup, costumes and costume accessories, masks, temporary hair coloring and 200-300 different wigs.
“If they need a hat or a corncob pipe, whatever they need to go with their costume, we more than likely have it,” Hurtado said.
This year is a little different in years past, Hurtado said, as he didn’t buy a ton of new Halloween inventory due to the pandemic. If someone wants the newest costume, that’s going to be a little more difficult to find.
“Other than that, we pretty much have all the normal stuff,” Hurtado said.
The store also has a ton of decorations, including lights, cobwebs, ghostly lawn decor, fake rats and body parts, basically all kinds of creepy things.
The store has a website, partyconnexion.com, that has photos and prices of all its in-stock inventory. Customers can find what they want, place an order online and pick it up at the store. Hurtado also ships all over the United States. Party Connexion is currently open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.