Remember back to your childhood and the joy that you got from receiving a balloon?
Watching this amazing colorful balloon gently glide through the air as you held tightly onto its string as you walked because you knew that one little slip or ease of the hand could send your prize sailing away to unknown lands afar?
It was a simple joy, yet one that many of us can remember.
Allison Dunning, left, works alongside her middle daughter, Rowan Dunning, right, at the new Balloon Bouquet store in downtown Greeley. (Tamara Markard/Staff Reporter)
It’s that joy that fuels the passion of Allison Dunning, owner of Balloon Art by Merry Makers and the newest brick and mortar store in downtown Greeley, Balloon Boutique.
Balloon Boutique, located at 924 8th Ave. Suite A in Greeley, represents the fulfillment of Dunning’s long-time goal of opening a retail business.
“I have been wanting to do this for about ten years. I have been home-based for about 22 years, so I learned a lot about how to do a retail store. This is really the retail grab something and go whereas Balloon Art by Merry Makers does installations and event decorating,” Dunning explained. “It’s all balloons ultimately but it’s two different factions of the same product.”
Balloon Boutique is located at 924 8th Ave., Suite A in downtown Greeley. (Courtesy/Balloon Boutique)
Like Balloon Art by Merry Makers, the store is a family affair with Dunning’s middle daughter, Rowan Dunning, stepping in to man the store alongside her 15-year old cousin, while Dunning’s husband, Brian Dunning, does repairs and remodels that come up around the store.
“I have a couple of crew members that work for me that can filter in for when we get really busy, like at Valentine’s Day,” she said. “I’ll need additional hands to build things and make things happen.”
If you’ve been to any event or gathering over the past 22 years, there’s a good chance you’ve caught a glimpse of Dunning’s work.
Her balloon creations are a staple at the annual Greeley Festival of Trees, Blarney on the Block, Trick or Treat Street and Monster Day events.
Allison Dunning is the founder and owner of Balloon Art by Merry Makers and Balloon Boutique overlooks a gaggle of balloons. (Greeley Tribune file photo)
In 2020 during COVID, Dunning and her crew made balloon buddies that were gifted to seniors at local nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Dunning also created an amazing balloon sculpture outside of her house to honor first responders working the front lines of the pandemic.
So, when you walk into Balloon Boutique, you pretty much know that you’re going to get more than just a latex balloon on a string— much more.
The store offers balloon marquees and centerpieces in a variety of themes, colors, sizes and shapes as well as balloon garlands in 6-foot and 10-foot lengths.
The store’s Personal Pop Drop and Jumbo Pop Drop are clever ways to celebrate a special occasion or holiday. Pop drops suspend from the ceiling and as the balloons float down, they are popped with a “magic popping wand” to unveil special the notes inside.
In 2020, Allison Dunning created an amazing balloon sculpture in honor of first responders working the front lines of the pandemic. (Greeley Tribune file photo)
“Each balloon has a message that is either hand written or typed out on the computer that I hand roll and put inside the balloons,” Dunning said. “Then when they pop that balloon, the messages come out. They are all custom and are really fun.”
Pop drops are great for gender reveals, marriage proposals, pledges of love and just about any time you want to tell someone something special in a unique and creative way.
Along with fashioning balloon bouquets, candy cups and other Valentine’s Day gifts, Balloon Boutique will make a custom stuffed balloon for your sweetie featuring gifts you bring in like flowers, candy, lingerie, jewelry, stuffed animals and other items.
“We are going to have a variety of stuffed animals here for sale that will be great for stuffing inside balloons,” Dunning said. “We can do whatever they want. It just has to fit through the hole. If it fits through there, I can pretty much put it into a balloon.”
With a vast array of different sizes and colors of balloon, Allison Dunning and her crew at Balloon Boutique can make your vision a reality. (Tamara Markard/Staff Reporter)
Dunning uses a special machine to inflate the balloon so that she can add stuffing and gift items to the inside. Once filled, Dunning will close the balloon and add a festive topper before placing it in a balloon bag for transport.
Dunning’s Balloon Buddies make great Valentine’s Day gifts for all ages. Customers can choose an animal, such as a fox, zebra, giraffe or other animal, and Dunning will make a stand-up balloon of that animal holding a heart.
And of course, Dunning can compile different sizes and colors of balloons for traditional helium balloon bouquets.
While shelves behind the register and counter are lined with jar after jar of every imaginable color of latex balloon, across the store candies of all kinds of flavors, varieties, sizes, shapes and themes — including vintage candy —sit waiting to be plucked from their display and added to a custom balloon package, candy cup or enjoyed as a sweet treat for yourself.
Balloon Boutique’s Candy Cups are great ways to say thank you or put a smile on someone’s face. (Tamara Markard/Staff Reporter)
“We are always trying to bring in vintage candy; fun candies that we see,” she said. “And I can usually tell when people are born based on the candy that they are attracted to.”
The store’s Candy Cups allows customers to create their own blend of candy topped with a festive and fun balloon to use as decorations or party favors, or give as a gift for a birthday, anniversary, baby shower, token of thanks or any other celebration.
Customers can choose from saltwater taffy and packets of Pop Rocks to lollipops and gummy candies, as well as all sorts of other treats, to fill their cup. Cups can be customized with the recipient’s name or favorite theme, colors or character.
“There’s no limit to the imagination here,” Dunning quipped.
Dunning’s Balloon Buddies can be created in a variety of different animals and are sturdy enough to endure cuddling and hugs. (Tamara Markard/Staff Reporter)
Dunning suggests getting in any custom orders for Valentine’s Day “sooner rather than later,” so they can have your item prepared, bagged and ready to go when you arrive.
However, if you happen to be one of those folks that wait until the last minute to pick up Valentine’s Day gifts, you’re in luck. The store will have plenty of grab-and-go bouquets, Balloon Buddies, Candy Cups and other items on Valentine’s Day and can whip up a last minute gift on the spot for customers, as well.
“We can do same-day orders. They can walk in and I will have staff here to build stuff,” Dunning said. “We are hands on and our raw product is an un-inflated balloon, and we can do magic with that. Putting them together and creating wonderful joy for people.”
Balloon Boutique is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. The store is closed on Sunday and Monday.
For more information, or to inquire about a custom order, go to www.balloonandcandy.com or call (970) 646-1227.
This article was originally published in Greeley Tribune