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Published: Thursday, 3/1/2007

Kids' birthday-party business helps arrange stress-free fun

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A Whitehouse man said he and his wife learned there is a market for the business they just opened when they hosted a birthday party for one of their two young children in January.

"Ugh, it was really stressful," Nathan Smith said.

If hosting their child's birthday party was stressful to them, the Smiths believed other parents must feel the same way about hosting children's birthday parties.

The Smiths' new venture is called Hero's, a licensed birthday party center in Rossford designed to put the fun back in children's parties for children and parents.

There are only three other Hero's centers in the United States, and no others in Ohio or Michigan.

Located at 9851 Meridian Ct., behind the Meijer store on U.S. 20, the Smiths' fledgling business is housed in a 7,800-square-foot building that opened Feb. 17.

Mr. Smith said Hero's is open on weekends only and is focused solely on birthday parties, generally for children ages 4 through 10.

He said he wants the children who come to Hero's to have the type of pleasant birthday experience they will always remember and for their parents to refrain from pulling their own hair out throwing such a bash.

"We wanted to do something for children, and when we found this idea, we fell in love with it," Mr. Smith said. "We love the concept of making a kid's birthday the best day of his life, because it almost never is."

Mr. Smith, 34, is an engineer with Trane Co., and his 29-year-old wife, Brandi, is a nurse at St. Luke's Hospital in Maumee. He said they both dreamed about opening their own Hero's since November, 2005, when they heard a Hero's co-founder speak at a convention in Atlanta.

To prepare for the day when their building would be ready for business, the Smiths opened a traveling Hero's last summer, in which they took their party staff and equipment to people's homes and hosted parties.

The cost for a basic party with 12 children is $249, but an upgraded package that includes invitations, thank-you cards, and goodie bags for each child is available for $289.

The price includes food and drink.

At the end of the party, parents receive a list of the gifts and who brought them.

"We only do one thing, and that's birthdays," Mr. Smith said. "We want to throw the best birthday parties in the world."

Mr. Smith said Hero's completely takes over a child's party, beginning a few days before the event with a phone call to his or her parents from a "party hero."

A party hero is an employee who is in charge of the party and calls parents in an effort to incorporate the child's interests into the party.

For example, if a child admires the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants, the party hero will base many of the games played at the party on that cartoon.

"The party hero is really what makes this work," he said.

One of the party heroes, Kati Errington, 22, a senior at the University of Toledo, said she and her co-workers have as much fun as the children.

"You almost get to be a kid again yourself," Ms. Errington said.

"It's a neat experience for everyone. The parents don't have to worry about entertaining. They can just sit back and enjoy the party."



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