Lou Tonore, a designer for a local architecture firm, spent over eight months searching for his idea of the perfect modern Mardi Gras decoration. The result? A 30 foot long garland of plastic balls to adorn the outside of his home. His first strand debuted in 2019 and now, thanks to the support of his friends and neighbors, he is making Mardi Gras decorations for all through Lou's Ballz.
"We sold out the day we launched, what a curveball! " Tonore told Adore. "Needless to say, it began as a very loose operation. We are constantly reordering and trying to anticipate what will get us through the season without having boxes leftover, because as we all know, there is no storage in a shotgun in New Orleans. We have reordered 5 times and counting — I am constantly texting and calling my ball guy!"
The balls are made in Tonore's makeshift Ball Headquarters (his dining room) and are made of a plastic material. Orders are accepted via Instagram DM and have come flooding in from across the country. Lou's Ballz is keeping things local for now and offering porch pickup only.
Learn more about Tonore and the origin of Lou's Ballz below!
What inspired this venture?
In Mardi Gras of 2018, I was looking for a classic, simple, but modern decoration that would make a statement even from the street! After a lifetime of searching for the perfect solution — it took more than 8 months — I ordered and assembled my first garland of balls for Mardi Gras 2019! The first was a 30 ft. long strand, which was ridiculous and I wouldn’t recommend it, but it has withstood over 3 seasons and is still going strong. Living near Napoleon and on the route, I got a lot of compliments, so this year I ordered more colors and planned to make a few extra for friends. All that went out the window on a typical, sunny Sunday in New Orleans. My neighbors Laura Steffan, a photographer, and Ashley O’Neill, a brand marketer, came over while I was stringing garland. I joked that the new business name was "Lou’s Ballz," and after a few laughs, they created an Instagram page. It’s been a week and the whole thing has snowballed!
What was the process like from idea to physical product?
It all started with wanting a very specific Mardi Gras decoration. I liked bunting, but the options were either too flimsy or too expensive and the expensive ones even tended to fade after a year. I did not want anything metallic and I couldn’t find banners in solid colors or any of the other ideas I had. I went searching for balls and found them, but I really had to search hard for the size and specific colors. Once I got the right materials in, it took a couple iterations to get the design right. I use a long needle and basically sew the balls together to create each strand. I’ve gotten pretty fast by now!
Do you have a team?
Thank God I have a team, yes! They really just fell into my lap. Melissa is the Ball Captain, she’s my second in command and one of my dearest friends. Laura is Chief Baller, she centers me and takes all of the images you see from the brand — she makes our business pretty. Ashley is our Ball Roller, she keeps things moving and is in charge of our Strategy and Communications.
Will you create ballz beyond Mardi Gras or is this purely a Carnival season business?
I love the idea of creating festive balls for other holidays, sports balls, and solid colored strands that you can mix and match! At the moment, we’re a one season shop stocked with all the balls we can handle. But, follow along on Instagram — who knows how far this can go!
What are your favorite parts about Mardi Gras?
My top three:
1. I love meeting my neighbors. You can go all year not know who is 4 houses over, and then during Mardi Gras you introduce yourself. First you’re on their porch and then you’re in their kitchen having jambalaya taking a break from the parades, talking about how they lived in your house during WWII.
2. Since I live on the route, I love to watch people arrive in the morning. But I really love kicking back at the end of the day on the porch watching the exodus.
3. I love that the parades do not pass my house on Mardi Gras day! I get to head into the CBD to watch from a grandstand, then once I’ve had my fill of fried chicken and parades I get to walk into the quarter and enjoy the costumes!
Lou's Ballz can be ordered through Instagram.