Native South Africans Gayle and Brian Rubenstein wrote the play book on doing the groundwork, learning a business and putting their combining sechel (common sense) into building the successful Balloons Over Atlanta, which now encompasses 11 full-time employees and three trucks.
“After we came here from Johannesburg, we flew all over the country to observe the art of balloons, attend conventions, became an expert by teaching, and bought this business in 1979, which we expanded,” Gayle said. Brian runs the administrative end while Gayle heads the marketing and design. Both are known to work seven days a week for 10-hour days. “I love what I do. We have broken into the Jewish market, which was basically untouched, as well as the corporate side. We design for b’nai mitzvah, baby namings, showers, gift baskets, birthdays and grand openings, you name it,” Gayle said.
Both Gayle and Brian are CBAs (Certified Balloon Artists).
Backing up, it is interesting to note that balloons were invented by Michael Faraday in 1824 in the lab as part of a scientific experiment. Basically, they are flexible bags that are filled with gas. Consumers know balloons for their low density and for providing color and creativity for a reasonable “bang for the buck.” Balloons Over Atlanta also sells the helium tanks, an element at the bottom of the chemistry chart, for medical use, to car dealers and apartments. A few months ago, when there was a helium shortage and outlets like Dollar Tree were not able to sell balloons, Balloons Over Atlanta had plenty of supply.
The company has an impressive corporate roster of clients coming out of their event design group, which can also provide tents, curtains, backdrops, props, signage and tables.
Balloons Over Atlanta’s clients include Chick-fil-A, UPS, PricewaterhouseCoopers, IBM, Turner, NASCAR, Georgia Tech, University of Georgia, Morehouse College and the Buckhead Business Association, to name a few. “We do a lot of work with schools and recently got up at 5 a.m. to set up at Spelman College,” Gayle said. “We have a lot of repeat business. Many people go online and fill out a request form, and we are able to respond quickly. We get 10 to 20 requests per day. They also did a very clever design for PJ Library with all their graphics and characters where the kids could color in their own ideas surrounded by big books and tzedakah boxes. And remember, after all the designs are set up; we have to be there to take it all down.”
A particularly creative corporate design that this journalist witnessed included centerpieces for a Spanx luncheon with 50 tables. Foam core and styrene were used to compose upside-down legs, high heels and stockings as fiery red and very suggestive centerpieces.
Gayle notes that the business is always changing, aligning with her ability to keep up with trends. “In past years, customers wanted balloons and columns to all be organized in the exact size, which was tedious. Today it is much more organic by enjoying different sizes. Trendy balloons in chrome, shiny balls and huge orbs all work well in filling a high ceiling room – much cheaper than fresh flowers would be.” Some of the most unusual designs they have done are Indian first birthday ceremonies, and the mandrap (similar to a chuppah) for Indian marriage ceremonies with elaborate drapes and beads. A full-time designer is responsible for the artwork.
Balloons Over Atlanta’s slogan is “we take you higher.” The next time we are buoyed by balloons for events like the Peachtree Road Race or the Atlanta Pride Parade, you can bet that the Rubensteins are the wind behind it.