A 3.7 mile stretch of High Street separates Wholly Craft, 3515 N. High St., and recently opened Surprise! Modern Party, 941 N. High St. For Owner Olivera Bratich nearly four miles and two different concepts mean a whole new ballgame when it comes to doing business.
When Bratich opened Wholly Craft in 2005, it was one of the first local stores carrying exclusively handmade goods – something new and different.
Joining the party (literally) has meant learning an industry (party supplies) with an established history.
“The whole point of doing this was to learn,” she says. “I was ready for something new. I was ready to take on a new challenge, and it has been a challenge, but in the best way possible.”
If you have any questions about balloons, Bratich is your gal. While it’s been a learning curve, “The switching gears on a daily basis between the two has been different,” she says, she’d been toying around with the idea of a second store as Wholly Craft approached the decade mark.
Bratich had no desire to recreate Wholly Craft, though.
“I love Wholly Craft and I think that it is what it is because of where it is and how long it’s been there, and so much of what we have there is built on relationships,” she says. “I think that Wholly Craft is a very special place. I think you feel that when you walk in and I can’t imagine taking that and just being like, and we’re going to do it in this neighborhood.”
She landed on party supplies for concept number two for a few different reasons. First, more handmade party goods were starting to make their way on the scene. Sites like Pinterest and Etsy are teeming with modern party decor.
The second, “I came across it myself when I hosted a party last summer and I ended up at big box party store like everybody does and I didn’t realize how bad selection really was,” Bratich says.
Cheesey and cheaply made – the gap in the market became quite apparent.
“The fact that there was no place anymore locally to just run down and get some party supplies led me to think we could do this,” Bratich says.
Surprise! Modern Party carries a mix of party supplies, from temporary items to goods meant for long-term entertaining. There’s the day-of stuff: decorations, balloons, disposable tableware, food picks, cocktail stirrers, etc. Cocktail shakers, unique glassware, coasters and trays can be a permanent fixture in a home bar or a great hostess gift. The present part of a party is also covered with cards and gift wrap.
Bratich says they are really filling the gap when it comes to customization. Surprise! offers over 50 different colors of tissue paper and a wall full of balloons for optimum color-coordination. They’ll even hand-make color-coordinated confetti and a build-your-own banner bar leads to endless entertaining possibilities.
There will be a great deal of seasonality to Surprise! In addition to the stock for occasions that happen year-round – birthdays, showers, anniversaries – the store’s shelves will soon see Halloween, election and Thanksgiving-themed wares.
Surprise! is filling a gap in the Short North that was left by Yankee Trader’s exit a few years ago.
“Celebrating things should be made easy,” Bratich says.
The store offers a convenient stop for a neighborhood that likes to party. Events like Doo Dah, Pride and Highball, “These are all times when everybody has a pre-party, everybody goes to the event, everybody parties around these things,” she says.
Surprise! has come with its own surprises. From a life in Clintonville, Bratich now adds a commute to her daily list. Notions about sharing staff have also changed in the month and a half since shop number two opened.
At first Bratich planned to keep staff for the two stores separate. However, she realized that having people knowledgeable about not necessarily products, but how the store should operate and how customers should be treated, translated from location to location.
She adds a few other words of advice for any entrepreneur thinking of going from one spot to two.
“Systematize as much as you can,” Bratich says. Protocols, systems, manuals, “By the time you are going into number two it should not be from scratch.”
Also, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
“For me it’s been helpful to transfer over as much as we can,” Bratich says. “If it works for you and is working well – don’t try to reinvent the wheel right at beginning. There’s always time to make improvements.”
For now, the owner is bouncing between the two locations on a near daily basis, but you might find her at Surprise! a little more often to be able to hear what customers want directly from them as things get rolling.
For more information, visit surprisemodernparty.com.