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Balloons big business in Carson

Jill Lufrano

A Reno entrepreneur and his son are doing their part to decorate Carson City for the holidays.

With 1,300 balloons decking the cars at Michael Hohl’s Cadillac dealership in South Carson City, the pair say they’ve found a new market that they expect to explode in the next year.

“It’s not a business everybody would enjoy doing, but I enjoy doing it,” said Rene Louvat, who supplies thousands of the specialty balloon bouquets to Reno and Carson auto dealers.

With new Carson City rules allowing an unlimited number of balloons with no time limits, Louvat’s son is opening a second outlet in the city. The father-son team expects business to triple.

Hohl’s dealership is getting attention with its holiday display of 17-inch balloons clustered together in orange, yellow and brown. The colors will change for Christmas.

“We like it. We figure it gives a festive atmosphere to our dealership,” said general manager Jay Bates. “Carson’s changing, obviously, and we want to put our best foot forward with respect.”

After leaving a job in management for a industrial gas manufacturer, Louvat said, he invested the new balloon bouquet technique six years ago.

His friend owned a small car lot that he decorated first. Louvat then started getting calls from larger dealerships in Reno and business took off from there, he said. He now works full-time from his home in Reno.

Louvat sells mainly to auto dealerships but also does special events. The idea took off so quickly, he has yet to solicit for new business, he said. He declined to say how much his displays typically cost.

Auto dealers usually have their sales workers tie single balloons filled with helium randomly to cars. But by filling the balloons with cold air instead and attaching them to poles and in bundles, the balloons last longer, Louvat found.

“We took a non-market and made it a market,” Louvat said. “This is a good thing, if it’s done tastefully. There has been a rise in demand.”

Louvat’s son has opened Pete Louvat Promotions in Carson to sell the balloons and flags and banners to car lots and special events.

City staff hasn’t received any complaints about the balloons or any other changes recently made to the sign ordinance that took effect in August.

The new rules also allow shop owners to paint windows for the holidays with signs that are allowed to cover the whole window, instead of 25 percent. It also allows businesses to advertise on their property using costumes and characters that dance.

Larry Osborne, executive director of the Carson City Area Chamber of Commerce, said businesses like the new rules that allow them to advertise the way they want to and not get cited by the city.

“I don’t know if it’s actually reflected back in increased sales, but the businesses are liking it because they’re doing it more,” Osborne said.

Contact Jill Lufrano at jlufrano@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.