Graduation Parties are Popping Once Again in Greenwich

By Elizabeth Casolo, GHS class of 2021, Northwestern University class of 2025

During her interview with the Greenwich Free Press, Party, Paper, & Things owner Juliann Salerno blew up countless dozen balloons. The phone wouldn’t stop ringing; orders kept coming through, just two days before Greenwich High School’s graduation. Setting foot in Party, Paper, & Things can transport you back to the pre-COVID era, even as Greenwich is just now breaking free from the pandemic.

Owner of Party, Paper, & Things Juliann Salerno stands with an order. Photo: Elizabeth Casolo

This spring, graduation parties are making a comeback in town, and local businesses feel it.

As owner of Party, Paper, & Things for the past 13 years, Ms. Salerno is highly active in Greenwich’s graduation scene. 

Last spring, the Salerno family briefly considered shutting the doors of Party, Paper, & Things for good. However, a suggestion from the community led to an innovative initiative: Party, Paper, & Things offered to send balloon bouquets to missed loved ones as part of their “I Miss Your Face” campaign.

Following this successful undertaking, graduation season rolled around. Despite the lack of in-person parties, the drive-thru graduation at Greenwich High School presented a new opportunity.

Salerno said, after that announcement, her business “exploded into absolute craziness.” Drive-by celebrations were the latest trend, and graduation was no exception.

With the influx of shipping orders across the country, Party, Paper, & Things’ balloon supplier struggled to send the uninflated balloons in time. Instead of waiting and delaying orders, the Salernos and their workers drove to Massachusetts to pick up their inventory directly.

Graduation supplies available at Party, Paper, & Things. Photo: Elizabeth Casolo

This graduation season, though, is another beast, with Salerno describing it as “beyond wild” due to the resurgence of in-person parties. 

Cardinal 2021 balloons stack up at Party, Paper, & Things. Photo: Elizabeth Casolo

Other Greenwich establishments see this year similarly. Jennie Olmsted—a graduating Greenwich High School senior who works as a cashier and greeter at Garden Catering in Old Greenwich—has seen an uptick in orders. When she started her job in February, the Old Greenwich location received roughly one catering order each hour. One day earlier this month, she received six in a single hour.

“I would say that a good portion of our catering orders [recently], especially sandwiches or wraps, have been graduations,” Jennie said.

According to what she’s heard from her coworkers, there is an increase in the amount of orders coming in now compared with this time last year.

For some, adaptations made in 2020 have proven valuable to how business owners manage their current graduation orders.

Salerno said, over the past year, her family and the owner of East Putnam Variety have fostered a unique—yet useful—relationship. 

“Although we are competitors in what we do, we became very close ‘friend-petitors,’ and, to this day now, we help each other out,” Salerno said. Although each business always respected the other, COVID prompted greater collaboration between the owners. The owner of East Putnam Variety is a certified balloon artist, and he gave design tips to Salerno. Depending on their needs, Salerno sometimes refers prospective customers to East Putnam Variety. Salerno views this as a mutually beneficial connection.

For small businesses around town, last spring’s dynamic led to a fresh perspective on handling graduation orders in 2021. Whether it be striking a bond between businesses or appreciating a spike in demand, Greenwich businesses have evolved and are ready for graduation parties to revert to their original glory.