In Portland, Kameron Messmer is best known as a balloon artist. His latest venture, however, might be his most unusual: the Joy Store, a pop-up art installation dedicated to spreading good vibes.
“The Joy Store is a concept I have playing around with for years,” Messmer stated in a press release. “Adult life is full of buying and selling and money and consuming. So much childlike joy is lost in that adult complexity. The Joy Store harkens back to the time before bills and credit cards and student debt.”
Created, financed and produced by Messmer, the Joy Store (located at Southwest 5th Avenue and Taylor Street) is not technically a store. While donations are welcomed, it exists primarily to make people happy, not least of all by showcasing Messmer’s beloved balloon creations.
“Unlike a real ‘store’ it is not about goods bought and sold,” Messmer said. “There isn’t pushy salesman, or intimidating security guards. This is all about creating and spreading JOY.”
Messmer’s path to Portland has been marked by delightfully eccentric ventures. He grew up working in his family’s variety store, which specialized in everything from clown supplies to tuxedos. According to his bio, his eclectic résumé includes teaching Sunday school (although he is no longer a practicing member of a church) and owning and operating a food cart that sold chocolate-covered bacon.
Before the pandemic, Messmer moved from his hometown, Billings, Mont., to Portland, where he became a regular at Saturday Market. Even during the height of the pandemic, his artistry refused to wane. He crafted creations like garlands for drive-by graduations and 6-foot-tall topiaries made from over 500 balloons.
“I think there’s a lot of sadness in the world, there’s a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety,” Messmer told WW in 2020. “It’s hard not to smile when you see a balloon.”