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The one constant in business is change, and a local husband-and-wife team has changed along with it – even amid COVID-19.
Niki and Mike Lewis have owned and operated the retail store Let’s Party! at 584 Bultman Drive for almost five years.
The party store previously had a focus on special-event supplies for weddings, birthdays, baby showers and other occasions. Then, the spread of the coronavirus reached the U.S. and South Carolina in mid-March. In-person parties and large-scale event gatherings came to a halt.
Niki Lewis said she closed the business for almost six weeks in the spring and didn’t know what to do. Her employees had to leave for other work opportunities. She wondered whether her customers would come back, and would there be a new normal?
To some extent, at least for right now, there is a new normal, and Let’s Party! has tapped into it. And it’s in the yard with yard greeting cards and yard balloon d cor.
Many party store businesses across the U.S. have picked up on the yard sign craze, which has been a growing small-business trend in recent years and is expanding exponentially now because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is the best way to have contactless celebrations,” Lewis said. “The contactless way about celebrating someone’s celebration has been brought up more so because of COVID-19, but I think it’s going to continue. I feel this is a great way to tell friends and neighbors, ‘Hey, I am celebrating something.'”
Oftentimes, Lewis said, when she, her husband or daughter, Jada, set up the displays in the morning hours in a yard, neighbors will drive by and honk their horn and say “Happy birthday” or “Happy graduation.”
Lewis said yard cards can say anything, including “Happy Anniversary,” “It’s A Boy,” “It’s A Girl,” “Baby Shower,” “Hope You Get Well Soon,” “Happy Birthday” and “Sweet 16.”
“Anything you want to say in a greeting card, we can say in someone’s yard,” Lewis said.
The new business, LP Yard Greeting Card Signs, is now under the Let’s Party! store umbrella, she said.
The yard card business with lettering is rentals-based. Lewis said they typically put them up in the morning and then come back and take them back down in the evening. They operate seven days a week. The cost range is $80 to $150, she said.
Currently, she has customers from Columbia to near the coast, but she said Sumter is her base and that she wants to grow the market more here.
For the business’ yard balloon displays, customers keep them. Costs start at $45 to include delivery within a 10-mile radius of the Sumter store and go up to about $75, she said.
Yard d cor, to include the signs and balloons, is currently about one third of the business. Lewis said she could see it reaching about 50%.
The graduation season, which just concluded, was her busiest time yet.
Lewis said in one weekend the business did three yard cards, eight yard balloon displays and one display at an elementary school.
She said she would love to get up to 10 yards per day.
“We would love,” she said, “to have our yard cards on every corner in Sumter.”