Party time ends for popular store

Discount Party owner Nancy Fey, left, has teamed up with longtime store manager Barbara Berry-Jacobs for many years. Fey owns the store with her husband, Mark, but it’s in the process of going out of business.  - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Discount Party owner Nancy Fey, left, has teamed up with longtime store manager Barbara Berry-Jacobs for many years. Fey owns the store with her husband, Mark, but it’s in the process of going out of business.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

The party’s over for Nancy and Mark Fey’s Oak Harbor Discount Party store. This fete has raged since day one when the door first opened 19 years ago, and it’s going out with a bang.

In an effort to liquidate their inventory, everything, except helium, is 50 percent off until the doors close for a final time, Feb. 28.

“It was gangbusters,” Nancy said of business on the first day of the sale -Jan. 5 - which drew throngs of entertainment aficionados, hoping to stock up on accessories.

A quarter of a million dollars of merchandise filled the store then. As of Jan. 14, $200,000 of party goods remained in stock.

Retirement age, coupled with family health issues, led the couple to entertain the idea of selling their business in late 2007.

“Now is a time to take care of family,” Nancy said.

The two made a pact to put Discount Party on the market for a year. According to their business plan, if the store didn’t sell by Dec. 31, they’d liquidate and rent out the space.

The Feys saw some interest, but in the end there were no takers. One man made an offer to use the space for a smoke shop with an “adult entertainment” area in the back of the store, but they didn’t think the business was appropriate for the area, and refused to rent for that kind of venture.

Another woman hoped to buy out the business, but simply didn’t have enough money.

“So we’re following out our plan and liquidating,” she said.

The Feys have a tentative agreement in the works with a possible tenant, Nancy said, but wouldn’t elaborate on the details.

Sales dipped slightly in 2008 compared to the previous year, but the slumping economy had no bearing on their decision to retire the business.

Sticking to their plan has been bittersweet, Nancy said.

“It’s been very successful, which makes it really hard to close. We shed a lot of tears.”

A steady stream of bargain hunters continues to comb through the store’s merchandise.

Marci Dunham of Oak Harbor stopped in on Wednesday morning to pick up some supplies for an upcoming soiree.

Discount Party earned Dunham’s business over the years because of their wide selection of merchandise, she said.

“I’ve always come here first,” she said while in search of decorations for her children’s birthday celebrations, which often take on themes.

When asked where she’ll purchase her party supplies from now on, Dunham said she didn’t know.

“I’ll probably order stuff online or drive to Mount Vernon,” she said.

The store’s closing isn’t news to the five party store employees, and the loss of jobs isn’t about to rock the local market. Three of her employees are Oak Harbor High School students: two seniors who plan to attend college, and a junior who plans to pursue her interests in business.

The fourth employee, a young lady who moved from Bellingham, plans to return to the larger, northern college town.

The store’s manager, Barbara Berry-Jacobs, a 15-year employee, is ready for the retired life, at least for now.

“I’m happy to retire early,” she said. “I won’t actively seek employment unless something comes up and strikes my fancy.”

As for Mike and Nancy Fey, they’ll stay right here in Oak Harbor, where they’ve lived the past 43 years.

“This is my town,” Nancy said.

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