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Closing time: Longtime Barrie entrepreneurs ready for retirement

'I almost feel like I am letting the town down by not being here,' says owner of The Party Store, whose lease is up at the end of March

The party's over for a longtime Barrie business.

After serving as a one-stop shop for people’s party needs for more than three decades, Brian Tracey and Lori Teed, owners of The Party Store on Commerce Park Drive in the city’s south end, have decided to hang up the party hats for good and retire.

Tracey opened the doors of the first location on Welham Road in 1988. Over the years, they have operated in a few different locations, before eventually landing at the plaza on Commerce Park Drive about 15 years ago. 

As for how he got into the business, Tracey tells BarrieToday the reason is simple: He just loves parties.

“Everyone walking through the door is planning a party,” he says.

“The customers are always happy. We get to deal with great people and be part of their celebrations. Who doesn’t love that,” says Teed.

Tracey says it was important to him to not have a product that is just put on a shelf waiting for someone to walk in and buy it.

“We wanted something much more interactive. Creating balloon things for people is just amazing," he says. "We sell really great quality balloons, so people have known to come to us for that. We’ve had people tell us they bought balloons in October and they’re still flying."

The last three decades have been “fabulous,” the couple admits, even during some of the toughest times.

“People couldn’t have parties, so we went to them. They’d call in, order balloons and I’d show up in a chicken suit, sing Happy Birthday … it was really amazing,” he says.

“Our motto is to celebrate everything," Teed adds. "Every day there is something to be joyful about."

As a small business, Tracey says they were able to easily change direction to accommodate whatever needed to be done to make the business work.

“As soon as we saw that it was outdoor parties, we knew we could do yard stakes in the lawn with balloons going crazy. It was exciting,” he says.

They have done a lot of “pivoting” as trends have changed, Teed notes.

“It’s fun to pivot sometimes … it’s a fun challenge,” she says.

The decision to close, though, is definitely bittersweet, they say.

“I was thinking about (the movie) It’s a Wonderful Life and he’s like, ‘This town needs this little savings and loan.' I almost feel like I am letting the town down by not being here because offering all of this stuff — we have things you can’t buy anywhere else — so I do feel a little sad for that," Tracey says.

"But everyone is happy for us."

As much fun as Tracey and Teed have had over the years, they say they are ready for the next chapter of their lives. And that means being able to spend more time doing some of the other things that bring them joy, including singing in local barbershop groups.

Tracey has plans to travel to Denver for the International Barbershop Competition and to Montreal over the May long weekend.

“I am ready. I’ve been there and done that. It’s been a lot of years. I don’t want to be 70 and not in great health when I want to travel," he says. "I want to do it now while I am in my prime, so to say. (Singing) is my passion, so I will have more time to do my singing.”

Teed says she plans to catch up on some housework.

“Since COVID, I have been in here all the time. My gardens are neglected. My home is neglected … and I am excited to spend some time hiking and taking care of me for a while.”

Tracey, however, says he will still have one foot in the party business.

“I actually have another job that I am transitioning into. I am going to be on the distribution level of the balloons," he says. "Instead of being a store, I am going to sell to the stores. I wasn’t planning on it, but they (asked) if I’d like to do this.”

News of the closure has been met with both congratulations and tears, Tracey acknowledges.

“We just have the best customers. Everybody has been coming in reminiscing and (are) so supportive," he says. "(Last) Saturday was hard because there were so many people in here with tears."

The final day the store will be open is still unknown, however their lease will be up at the end of March, they say.

Until then, they will be there to help their customers with all of their party needs, and continuing to be grateful for the years of support the city has given them.

“Thank you for allowing us to share in your celebrations and being part of your life all of these years,” Teed says.