New balloon store features owner’s creativity

Laurise Thomas (second left), director of development for Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce, presents a certificate to Quanesia Arnold.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine
QSA Balloons features a huge variety of balloons.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

Those who like to celebrate an occasion but would sometimes miss one essential got Quanesia Arnold thinking how to come up with a fix.

It wasn’t just people who missed the one little detail that got her entrepreneurial juices flowing. She’d been there herself.

“I would get to the event and we forgot the balloons,” she said. “Somebody would have to go run and grab the balloons.”

Arnold has done one better. She opened a store and used her middle name, Shantae, to complete the name QSA Balloons. A group of her friends, family and some clients showed up at 636-5 Railroad Square last week for a ribbon cutting.

To get this far, Arnold decided to give up her 9-5 job as a positive youth development counselor with Leon County Health Department. She found a cozy spot in the heart of Railroad Square where other small businesses buffer the Craft House restaurant.

Despite the fact that 40 percent of Black-owned businesses closed during the pandemic and many aren’t expected to reopen, Arnold isn’t second-guessing her decision.

“I wouldn’t have gone into business if I wasn’t confident,” she said.

Adam Boynton Kaye, a co-owner of Railroad Square, said he decided to help ensure that Arnold could live her dream by offering her a month-to-month lease. Arnold is one of several entrepreneurs in Railroad Square who might not be able to afford brick and mortar elsewhere.

“We are very lucky and glad to provide the stepping stone for budding entrepreneurs to open up a business around whatever amazing creative things that they can do, whatever they can contribute and offer to our community,” Boynton Kaye said. “QSA Balloons is a fantastic example of that.”

QSA Balloons is believed to be the only Black female-owned store in the city that sells balloons exclusively. The store is bound to have big success as balloons are a major party attraction. Of course, they will probably need different retail accessories such as tags and labels (which can be easily procured from suppliers like, if they plan on making customized goods.

She got plenty of encouragement from her father who owns Barnes Mobile Detailing and her boyfriend Dondrick Eave, owner of Big D Barbeque, Arnold said.

Plus, she had plenty of experience as an entrepreneur selling t-shirts and mugs, a hobby that turned into a way to make some cash. She eventually got into selling balloons, leaving the t-shirts and mugs behind.

Having a brick-and mortar has solidified what she calls “an entrepreneurial leap of faith.”

Inside the building, Arnold’s creativity becomes obvious immediately. The multi-colored floor has a graffiti design that she calls “the splatter.”

There are traditional and non-traditional balloons hanging on the walls. One of the more interesting resembles a clear bag filled with other balloons, t-shirts, gift cards.

Such creativity appealed to Attorney Jimmy Fasig. He commissioned her to assist with a Springtime Tallahassee float, after seeing her work with balloons.

“I knew that she had that creative potential,” said Fasig, who got to know Arnold through a mutual friend. “I could see that she has talent and an eye for it. We pretty much gave her free reign (on the float design). I know she’s got talent and creativity so I didn’t need to step in and put my two cents worth.”

The store will open Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. She will do deliveries, some last-minute if possible, Arnold said, adding that her best contact is on Instagram or Facebook.

Arnold can expect to get plenty of support from the Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce, said Laurise Thomas, director of development for the chamber. She added that exclusivity will become a key selling point for the new business.

“They are messages of hope, love and admiration,” said Thomas, who presented a certificate to Arnold prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “She puts skills and talent into the balloons it’s not just putting helium into it and wrapping a thing on it. She has a visual of how she wants things to be.”

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