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Festivities more than a 9-to-5 for party store

FunDaze & HoliDaze take on their first holiday rush

CLEARFIELD — You might want to pause and let Paul and Marnie Bowden and John and Pat Bradley take a breath.

The owners of party and holiday supply store FunDaze & HoliDaze, 795 N. Main, likely are still recovering from the Halloween crush — their first since taking over ownership of the 22-year-old business in March.

"We carry everyday party stuff — for birthdays mostly — and all the holiday things. Each holiday we have a section just for that upcoming holiday, but we also have Barbie plates, solid-colored plates, napkins, forks and cutlery that goes with it," Paul Bowden said. "We're trying to be a 'one-stop' for people's parties. When they want to have a party, they can come here and get everything they need for it."

"Everything" is in a 5,000-square-foot building just off I-15 and a half-mile from what Bowden calls a "little shack" that was the company's home until three years ago. Original owner Nolan Evans and his wife sold the business to the new building's contractor, and the new ownership took over this spring.

"I was serving in the military in Iraq," said Bowden, a member of the Utah National Guard. "I got an e-mail from my wife saying her brother (John Bradley) wanted to know if I wanted to be a partner in a hardware store. I said, 'Yeah, send me some information.' But we decided we didn't want to do a hardware store. We thought about a rental store. I called a broker and he said that the party store was for sale, and we bought it.

"We're hoping to be here another 20, 25 years."

In addition to offering the "traditional" party and holiday items, the new owners have expanded the business to offer party rentals. Large inflatables; concession machines dispensing cotton candy, snow cones and popcorn; and carnival games common at school carnivals and fairs are part of the repertoire.

"It's a relatively small thing right now, but we want to expand it so that if a large company calls, we can do the whole party — ticket sales, all the games, all the jumphouses. We have 24-foot slides and a 65-foot obstacle course," Bowden said.

He acknowledges that the store cannot compete with Wal-Mart's purchasing power. "But what sets us apart is the service. It's still a small business, and I've never been here when there wasn't one of the owners here."

Plus, FunDaze & HoliDaze can offer unique balloon creations — Frankenstein, Dracula, bouquets and arches among them — and can handle special orders. It also offers 10 percent discounts for teachers for items used in classrooms.

Being surrounded by Frankenstein, cartoon characters, balloons or "Over the Hill" items may sound like a fun way to spend a day, but Bowden admits it's work.

"Let me put it this way: My wife and I have had businesses before, so we knew what we were getting into. Our partners, a month in, said they never could have imagined how much work it is. It's a lot of fun for the people who come in. They say, 'This is such a fun store,' but on the other side of the counter, it's a lot of work. We're putting in 12- to 14-hour days to get this to the point where we want it. We want to be able to compete with anybody in the business."

To help them compete, the partners are considering an expansion or relocation.

"After about two weeks of being in the store, we found that it was too small to carry what we want to carry. Right now, we're looking into either adding onto the store or moving back to the original spot and building a new store that will be bigger and can handle everything we want to carry," Bowden said.

"We're toying with the idea, but we're not sure if it will be cost-effective."

In the meantime, FunDaze & HoliDaze will get the word out about itself through a billboard advertising campaign. A Web site likely will be developed soon.

"It's amazing to me that the store has been around for 20 years and yet we still have people come in and say, 'Boy, I didn't even know you guys were here.' That was surprising to me. We'll be doing everything can do to get the word out. We do have great word-of-mouth. People say, 'We're going to let all of our friends know about it,' and that helps."