After close to 25 years, Party Land in Delran is closing its doors. The reason? You just have to look across the street.
Party City, the country’s largest party goods chain, opened around Christmastime in the Target shopping center nearby, and Kevin O’Neill, owner of Party Land, is already feeling the effects of the big-box store.
He really felt it from Christmas to New Year’s.
“I was 60 percent off from previous years that same week,” O’Neill, of Moorestown, said. “New Year’s Eve was always remarkable. I went back nine years and it was very, very consistent. Now, every day is off by more than half.”
To make matters worse, Kimco, the developer for his shopping center—home to just Party Land and Dollar Tree now—is the same developer for the Target shopping center.
After he found out about Party City opening, he confirmed the news with his sales rep last fall.
“I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’” O’Neill said. “ I don’t think they (Kimco) really care. They didn’t say I’m sorry. He said Party City was poking around anyway.”
A phone call and an email from Patch to Kimco—the developer of both shopping centers—were not returned.
O’Neill’s wife Colleen, who owns Remember Me Stationery in Moorestown, called Kimco “unscrupulous.”
“Funny thing is they try to promote small business on their Facebook page,” she said in an email. “There is no room for negotiation as [they] have remained corporate and stone-faced …”
O’Neill became a Party Land franchise owner in 1989, starting in a 1,600-square-foot building. After eight years, he moved into a larger storefront in the same strip. About seven years ago, he took down the wall between him and another vacant store, and expanded to 5,000-square-feet.
Business was good. In fact, O’Neill said his best years were 2006 and 2007.
But the shopping center is “in the worst shape” it’s been in in years, he said. “It hasn’t been full in 15 years.”
That was a big issue for O’Neill, and four years ago, when it was time for him to sign for an extension, he only did so with the written request that something had to open where Frank’s Nursery was.
Dollar Tree opened, and O’Neill admitted that’s not what he had in mind.
“I have very big issues with [Kimco] and the way it’s all gone down,” O’Neill said.
In November, O’Neill knew something was moving to Party City's present location. Over the years, it’s been a Halloween store every fall but nothing year-round.
He found out through other business owners, and confirmed by Kimco officials, a Party City was opening. The fact that Party Land had been struggling since 2008 as it was compounded the bad news of Party City's arrival.
“I knew it would put a big hurt on me,” he said. “The store is double the size of mine, they are a corporate store, and they do a lot of TV advertising. I knew they would take a bit out of my business.”
The effects were felt immediately. Party City opened a few days before Christmas and O’Neill’s numbers fell.
“If I was off 10 or 15 percent,” O’Neill said, “I could at least make it to the end of this lease and decide from there if I wanted to scale back or go somewhere else.”
Because of the last few years of decreased business—and the performance of the store over the last month—O’Neill is behind in the rent and will close his doors on Friday, Jan. 25.
He called the opening of Party City “the final straw” for his business.
Everything in the store is 50 percent off; O’Neill is just trying to sell down.
“Ideally, I would want more time,” he said.