A helium shortage is deflating sales at area stores. WDBJ7 first told you about the problem in April. Now store owners say it's getting worse.
Party stores made it through graduation season with plenty of helium. But this summer will be a different story.
"We anticipate having a supply through the month of July probably running out some time the first of August," says Steve Layman who owns Party Central in Blacksburg.
Layman found out on Wednesday that his store has been cut off by its distributor, Airgas.
"I talked with my supplier this morning," says Layman, "We're out again and my supplier for the first time said he would not be able to deliver helium to me at all"
Layman was surprised and he's not sure what to do next. Balloon sales account for about 15% of his business. He has already lost money from the shortage.
"Right now we're just gonna have to take it day by day and see if we can find something else to offset it," says Layman.
There's a worldwide shortage of helium. The reason is complex. Production is unreliable in foreign countries and in 1996 Congress agreed to sell off the U.S.'s helium stockpile.
"They told me that's it," says Bill Altizer, "Those were their exact words."
Altizer owns D'Rose in Blacksburg. He too was told this week not to expect any more helium from Airgas.
The florist shop makes a pretty penny off balloon orders and the owner is now asking other businesses for help.
"I have been going to one of my competitors and they have been selling me helium," says Altizer.
Altizer says he's willing to travel to other cities to buy helium to stay afloat.