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Meet the new owners of “Balloons East,” Michael and Melanie Kerns

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Read our Q & A with the family behind Hornell’s newest hotspot

By Andrew Harris, picture provided

Hornell has been very excited about the new addition to the food and entertainment menu in the Maple City, and for good reason. Melanie and Michael Kerns are the proprietors Balloons East, located on Seneca Road on the north side of Hornell, also well known as the former Club 57 location.

We asked the Kerns some question about the family business and the expansion in to Hornell for a second location. The family has operated Balloons in Elliciotville for three generations and decided it was time to move east. Read more about the family, the food, and the vibe Balloons plans to bring to the Hornell area:

Q- Balloons has a great history; can you tell readers more about your roots?

Balloons is a family-owned and operated business. My wife and I grew up in Ellicottville, and worked in the restaurant business. My parents, the late Michael Kerns and Cheryl Kane, owned the Rusty Nail in Jamestown, NY and seized the opportunity to bring their experiences back to their hometown of Ellicottville in 1987 when they opened the doors to Balloons. In 2006, with the sudden passing of my father, my wife and I eventually assumed ownership. The loss of my dad occurred within weeks of the birth of our first born; it was a tandem event that culminated into new beginnings that I hope brings pride to both of my parents. We are now moving into our third generation of Kern’s family employees. Our two oldest children have joined our team, and we are so proud to have them greeting guests and learning the business along our sides. 

Q- Tell us about the one appetizer that people need to have in their lives ?

Just one!?! Ok…then it will have to be the artichoke dip! It is a Balloons classic that we rotate on and off of our menu in our Ellicottville establishment. Our daughter was adamant that it be incorporated as an option on our opening menu in Hornell. It is a warm and creamy artichoke spread served with fresh, warm pitas. It is to die for!

Q- It’s your birthday and you want the best dinner possible, what do you order at Balloons East?

We are so excited to feature some amazing entrees at Balloons East. The purpose of our menu design was truly to create a dining experience for ALL people offering a wide range of dining options with varying price points. If it is a special evening out, such as a birthday celebration, I would encourage you to indulge in the Veal Chop! The perfectly grilled 10 oz French-cut Veal chop is infused with a honey rosemary glaze. It is truly an indulgent and special meal.

Q- Some say a good restaurant is only as good as the bar menu, what will be on tap?  What local wines are on the menu?  

We are offering a variety of both regionally brewed beers; featuring Southern Tier, Ellicottville Brewing Company and Big Ditch, in addition to domestic favorites. Balloons East plans to offer a diverse wine menu and this is a work in progress as as we begin to consult with some local vineyards. We will offer a specialty drink menu that will change seasonally to keep things fresh and interesting. Balloons is known for offering an eclectic drink menu with creative libations!

 Q- Dining out for lunch can be dicey during the work week.  Will Balloons be catering to the clock watchers or focus on casual lunch?

Yes, there are several options available for those on a time schedule. 

 Q- Your Ellicottville operation is well known and popular in a very competitive town.  Will Balloons East be a more of a satellite operation or its own restaurant destination?

Our flagship location in Ellicottville is certainly a unique destination, operating in a busy four-season resort community.  We will maintain our home base vibe offering an eclectic mix of Balloons favorites, combined with some amazing specialty dishes in Hornell. Live music is offered in both locations with more of an acoustic vibe in Hornell. We designed both locations with the concept that Balloons is for EVERYONE! It is our goal to make it a comfortable and inclusive space for all to enjoy. It is important to us to maintain that atmosphere in both locations!  Inside, people will find special items contributing to the development of the space by many of our local friends and artists! Come take a peek for yourself! I think people who know Balloons will find immediate comfort, and people new to our space will hopefully fall in love with the eclectic flair!

 Q- How about special events?  Will Balloons East be an option of private groups and functions?

As we continue to grow and expand, we look forward to filling the niches in the Hornell community by providing a space to cater to special events and functions. If you know even a little about Balloons, you know we don’t shy away from a good time! People love to celebrate milestones with us in Ellicottville, and we hope the people of Hornell and in the surrounding communities come to feel the same, whether it’s wedding festivities, bachelorette/bachelor parties, golf outings, girl’s weekends, it’s always the right time to enjoy life with the people you love. We cannot wait to bring our lively vibe to Hornell and celebrate many occasions for years to come. 

Shout out to the Balloons crew from the Kerns Family:

We want to thank our Balloons staff and management team for jumping head first into the shallow end with us. When my wife and I shared the idea with them, I told them we couldn’t do it without them, and boom, they helped us make this crazy endeavor a reality! Thanks team!

Read our reporting which previewed the recent May 19 Grand Opening, see the full menu:

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