Spotlight On: Fort Worth, Texas
One family, three locations, hundreds of happy customers
Steve and Tracy Steffgen joined the party in 2006 when they purchased Party Warehouse
— two storefronts in Fort Worth, Texas. Both stores (the Camp Bowie location and McCart store, as coined by the duo) had a history of success, and with the help of their family, the Steffgen’s plan to keep it that way for many years to come.
“One of our stores is run by our son-in-law, Tommy Babcock,” Tracy said. “Our oldest son, Justin, works as an assistant manager at our flagship store and our daughter, Alaina, is also an assistant manager and she takes on most of the marketing and special projects. As of last month, our niece started working for us.”
When the Steffgen’s purchased Party Warehouse, it was with the idea that their children would one day take control. And with retirement on the horizon, that day may be in the near future.
“When we purchased the business, the Camp Bowie and McCart stores were existing storefronts,” Steve said. In 2008, the business expanded and the couple purchased property in Burleson, Texas, because the city lacked a party store.
The Camp Bowie store is the largest at 9,000 square feet and has been in business at the same location for more than 25 years. The McCart location comes in second — it has 8,000 square feet of retail space — and has produced business for more than 20 years. Rounding out the group is the family’s 5,300-square-foot Burleson store.
“With each of our three storefronts, the biggest difference is our customer base,” Steve said. “Each store is located in very diverse social and ethnic communities. “Party Warehouse is unique because we are a family-run business that stresses the importance of customer service and interaction at all times,” he continued. “Being an independent retailer allows us to try different ideas that a corporate store can’t and also allows us to buy from a variety of outlets to give the customer a wide variety of merchandise to select from.”
“The biggest benefit to working as a family is that we all have the same goal in mind,” Tracy said. “If it means taking on additional responsibilities on occasion, we are willing to do it. We have learned to work together over the years and find that we enjoy spending almost as much time together outside of wok as we do on the job.”
But that’s not all.
“In addition to our family, two of our managers, AJ and Sonia, have been with Party Warehouse prior to us owning the company,” Tracy continued. “It is such a blessing to have that experience and stability in all of our stores."
Collectively, they operate the three storefronts, a balloon décor and delivery business, and an online business. The stores aim to assist every customer through the party planning process. If customers don’t know what they want or how to find it, the staff is always willing to help. And when it comes to balloons, customers are welcome to look through idea books or bring pictures of their own for Party Warehouse to mimic. With service like that, parties are made easy.
Best of the Best
“The best items we sell year round are our solids from Creative Converting,” Tracy said. “Solids coordinate with any theme or occasion, so if your customers are on a budget, they can buy solid plates and table covers and dress up the rest of the party with themed décor.” Party Warehouse carries 32 different colors. Solid colors never disappoint, but Steve and Tracy said kids themes are “the safe way to go for trends.” The stores carry a wide selection of patterns that are sure to enthused.
“Frozen is most popular for little girls right now,” Steve said. “It is so popular that we have a hard time keeping it in stock.”
Another must-have in the Texas market? Chevron.
“Chevron is a very popular trend for us right now,” Tracy said. “We carry a variety of double-sided napkins with polka dots on one side and chevron on the other side. Customers like these because they can mix and match the colors to coordinate with the party theme they are using.”
What’s on the agenda for the coming months?
“We will be receiving a new pattern called ‘Fire Watch’ from Creative Converting,” Steve said. “It’s a bold new pattern for boy’s birthday parties. We will also be receiving a new pattern that coincides with the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ movie release.” Steve and Tracy said their focus is on the upcoming Halloween and Christmas seasons, along with Homecoming.
But business isn’t always bliss.
“Our biggest challenge is Party City, especially because they have opened a store next to each one of our locations to go into direct competition with us,” Steve said. “We respond in the only way we can — we don’t buy Amscan products unless we absolutely have to because they own the license.”
Luckily for the Steffgen’s, a little competition never hurt anyone, especially when advice comes from Dave Ramsey: “Live like no one else so that you can live like no one else!”
Ramsey’s famous quote is the best advice the family has ever received.
“We believe that the biggest reason we have been able to weather the last financial downturn and the encroachment of Party City is that we are laser-focused on remaining debt free,” Steve said. “We personally work in the stores and manage our labor costs as closely as possible.”
Whatever they are doing seems to be working. But what does the future hold?
“We do not plan to open anymore stores,” Tracy said. “We are running out of family members to run them!” Instead the pair is focusing on updating all locations and expanding their horizons.
“We have greatly expanded our balloon décor and delivery business and continue to learn more about that,” Steve said. “One of our goals this year is to get at least three of us accredited Certified Balloon Artists.”
Because the family lives like no one else so they can one day live like no one else, I don’t think they will have any problem accomplishing their goals.