Years ago while I watched a show about a crew working in a sewer and heard one of the workers say, “You either gotta laugh or throw up.”
But, there’s another option aside from illness or giving way to the insanity through laughter to survive when confronting a foul mess: hit it with a baseball bat. Not many businesses can say that option has kept them afloat in 2020, but at ABC Party HQ in Oak Cliff, it's true.
Carlos de la Fuente originally opened a produce stand at his spot at 1414 W. Davis St. in 1989. Around 2005 he hired Alex Segreto to make piñatas and eventually the colorful papier-mâché creations overtook the small grocery store.
Around the time Donald Trump entered the presidential race, Segreto used the president’s easily recognizable features, particularly a wave of blond hair that is exaggerated in Flock of Seagulls fashion, to create a piñata.
The papercraft depictions designed to take a punch sold well. In 2016, Segreto reported he sold up to 10 a day.
Unfortunately, party supplies aren't considered an essential business. When the pandemic hit, piñata sales took a beating of their own.
“We were shut down for 10 weeks and that hurt,” Fuente said recently. “We have entire families that work here. It was scary.”
He's back now with a new piñata resembling the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. But, Fuente wants to make sure he’s never in the position of being nonessential again, so he’s going back to his roots. He’s working on a large mobile fruit stand that sits behind his store which he will pull around to the front of ABC Party HQ every morning.
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For him, the benefit is twofold; As a purveyor of fresh fruits and vegetables he won’t have to close down for not being essential, should it come to that again. Second, he’s bringing easily accessible produce to his neighborhood.
“We’ll get citrus fruits from the Valley, and we’d also love to have other goods from the community. I need honey,” Fuente said.
For now, Fuente says the Trump and COVID-19 piñatas have been keeping him afloat. But, even those sales are slow, as most parties and gatherings are sparse.
Fuente is quick to point out he doesn’t have strong political feelings one way or the other, but rather knows how to pick up on trending news topics and shift accordingly, identifying those things people most want to hit with a bat. Sorry, Donald.