Q: Where did you grow up?
King Gene: I grew up in Amityville, Long Island. It was awesome.
Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
King Gene: I wanted to be an architect or to follow my father in the family sign business.
Q: Where did you start?
King Gene: Funnily enough, I went into the United States Marine Corps, even though I had originally wanted to go into the Navy. But the Marine Recruiter made me feel like I would be family if I joined.
Q: What did you do in the Marines?
King Gene: After boot camp, I was trained as a radio technician for a year, after which I was stationed with Bravo Company, 1st Tank Battalion, in San Diego, California. We deployed to Camp Schwab, Okinawa, two times and once to Mount Fuji, Japan. And we were the second unit in Saudi Arabia for Desert Storm, where I was in charge of making sure our 22 tanks were able to communicate with each other at all times.
Q: How did you go from being a United States Marine to being the Balloon King?
King Gene: After Desert Storm, I went back into the family business. My grandfather had taught me to hand-letter signs starting when I was seven years old, but as the economics of the construction industry changed, our family business was sold, and I was presented with a new opportunity: To become part of the great modern generation going from No. 2 pencils and rotary phones to touchscreen tablets and FaceTime. The culmination of these events, with the continuing support of my family, was the idea of Balloon Kings.
Q: Why balloons?
King Gene: You get to deal with customers who are always happy. I mean, who isn’t happy seeing a balloon? It’s the perfect product to suit my values….plus the margins aren’t bad either. (Balloons aren’t the most expensive product in the world, after all.)