PLANNING and hosting parties has always been Andrea Ciotti’s favourite thing to do.
But when Ms Ciotti moved from her native Florida to the Hunter a couple of years ago to be with her partner Ben Johnston, she battled to find the high-quality and quirky items she could source in the US. So every time she visited her homeland, she’d lug items back to Newcastle.
The conundrum came about the same time that Ciotti, 28, who has a background in events, questioned herself about what brought her most happiness in life.
“I realised it was making people smile and I had a lot of creativity and a desire to bring that all together,” she says.
In February Ms Ciotti did just that when she opened Palm & Pine, a boutique party supply store across from The Edwards in Parry Street, Newcastle West.
The store stocks a swathe of chic cups, plates, napkins and inflatable toys and even has a Balloon Bar that has all manner of coloured ballons, fun balloons in the shape of a beer mug, diamond ring or even the “really popular” poo) and gender reveal balloons for baby showers.
The most popular ones are the confetti balloons – large helium balloons that can be filled with different confetti to suit any private or corporate party theme.
Ms Ciotti, who can help clients set up their party, says her fixation with pineapples came as a child when she and her mum baked a sponge cake that leaked out of its springform tin.
“All that was left on the bottom of the oven was a tiny slither of cake that looked like a pineapple ring, it was the best cake ever,” she says, laughing when she says she began her blog The Pineapple Cake “before pineapples got trendy”.
Thankful for the support of her hubby in store, Ms Ciotti says running her first business has elevated her anxiety – “There is so much to do and it’s difficult finding a balance to not spend all my time in the shop” – but brought great satisfaction.
“It’s getting busier each week and the feedback is incredible, I’ve had repeat customers and people come in and say ‘I saw what you did at my friend’s party and I want this’,” she says.