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Angie Wieck, Published February 10 2013

'Balloonatic' finds success in airy arrangements

FARGO – Not many people can say they have been referred to as a “balloonatic.”

It is an honor Shantel Gray earned while attending a Ballooniversity in Athens, Ga.

Gray, manager of Balloons & More, recently took time off from preparing for Valentine’s Day to talk about the holiday and the business of balloons.

Q. How did you get involved in this industry?

It started as a hobby to put me through school. Because of some medical issues, I wound up turning my hobby into my career. I started out doing candy bouquets for Sweet Dreams Confections and for friends and family. Later, I took a two-week crash course with the previous owner of Balloons Etc., and then traveled to Athens, Ga., where I attended Ballooniversity for a week. I eventually ended up here, and I’ve been managing Balloons & More since February of last year.

What exactly is Ballooniversity?

It’s an event put on by Burton and Burton, which is one of the main suppliers of the floral and balloon industry. They put on the event to show us new techniques and ideas.

Are balloons the store’s specialty?

Balloons are a focal point because I can construct almost anything out of a balloon and it’s more reasonable priced than flowers or candy, but I’d say the business could be split three ways. It’s flowers, balloons and candy bouquets.

I’m known for custom orders. My candy bouquets and flowers can’t look like anything I could buy somewhere else. I also love anything with a theme. For example, I recently did a Super Bowl arrangement where I used a football as the base.

Besides holidays and birthdays, what are some other events you do?

I decorate a number of corporate events and fundraisers like “61 for 61” and the Fargo Marathon. I also do a lot of weddings. I basically can do a wedding from start to finish. Customers can get balloons, flowers, centerpieces, candy buffets and much more here. I also rent a lot of things out so brides don’t have to purchase everything.

I’ve also started a service for customers where I keep track of their special dates such as anniversaries and birthdays on my calendar. I’ll call them a few days in advance of the special day as a reminder and to see if they would like to send an arrangement.

Is there still time to place orders for Valentine’s Day?

I stress today as the deadline for custom orders in order to get guaranteed Thursday delivery. I’ll keep taking orders until Wednesday if I think I can still do it. After that, customers can still get flowers or off-the-shelf candy bouquets. Right now we have about 270 candy bouquets ready on the shelf.

What do you love about your job?

No two days are the same. I do have quiet days, but that’s when I sit and think about what I could build next or how I could make something easier or better. It’s a lot of brainstorming and creativity.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501