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Spotlight On: Party Out the Box

After years climbing the corporate ladder, the Tates are having a blast with their second careers

By Zeke Jennings | ppredit@partypaper.com

After 25 years of climbing other people’s corporate ladders, Bruce and Daphne Tate decided it was about time they built a ladder of their own.

In 2015, the Tates retired from corporate life — Bruce as an IT specialist and Daphne as a human resources manager for a banking company — and opened a party store.

“We were able to move up the corporate ladder in our respective careers, but we worked really, really hard,” Daphne Tate said. “My husband said, ‘If we’re going to work this hard, why not work for ourselves?’”

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Why a party store? That was Bruce’s decision, one based on watching his wife help her fellow moms plan parties for decades.

“I was shocked,” Daphne said. “I thought our new business would be built on something he was passionate about, but he turned it on me and said, ‘You’ve always enjoyed doing this. We’re going to stand on what you enjoy doing.’”

The Tates, formerly of Washington D.C., became very involved with the school system and other community organizations when they moved to Georgia. When another mom was planning a shindig, Daphne would take it upon herself to get all the supplies together and plan it out so all the hostess had to do was pick up a box of items from the Tates’ house.

“I didn’t have a (party planning) background or anything, that was just like my outside hobby,” she said. “I was part of a women’s association and we all had small kids. (Bruce) said, ‘Do you realize how many times we’ve answered the door and you’ve basically handed them their party and you’d have everything all in a box?’

“That’s how we came up with the name, Party Out the Box.”

The first year wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. Despite being meticulous planners, the Tates simply didn’t know what they didn’t know when it came to the industry. They started in a small location under the umbrella as a representative store of a larger network, which had its drawbacks.

About a year in, the Tates met another Georgia party retailer through a common vendor that happened to be a member of Paper First Affiliates.

“In listening to them, there was a tremendous amount of knowledge and resources available that we didn’t know about,” Daphne said. “We opened our store one way, but we wanted to see what joining another group could potentially do for us. We wanted to take a different approach.”

Being able to lean on fellow PFA members for knowledge and having access to vendors and discounts has made a huge difference for the Tates. They moved their operation eight miles away to a 7,000-square-foot location on Highway 20, one of Rockdale County’s busiest roads. The Tates’ clientele eventually followed them to the new location, although Daphne admits it took some time. She attributes to attentive customer service as a major reason why.

“I honestly believe that’s how we survived that first year as a company,” she said. “We knew that we could not compete (with larger stores) in terms of inventory, but our customers kept coming back because we were committed to their event. We asked questions and we walked them through it.

“Even now, in the larger store, every last one of our associates understands that every customer has to be greeted. We have an expectation that before that customer walks out, we know exactly why they came in.”

Party Out the Box also draws from a neighboring county. Daphne feels their high-traffic location has been a big boost since Highway 20 carries plenty of folks traveling back and forth to Atlanta.

Balloon ensembles are the “backbone” of Party Out the Box. All associates contribute, but Bruce, a U.S. Army veteran, showed natural aptitude for balloon design very early on.

“He showed a lot of hidden talents,” Daphne said with a chuckle. “I told him had I known he could create such beautiful balloon art, we would have had beautiful balloon art at all of our kids’ parties.”

“He actually mastered the MasterBow program before I did.”

Originally posted Wednesday, Jun. 20, 2018

Tags: profiles, shop talk