Evans Equipment Co.: Choosing rental over fast food
Evans Equipment Co.: Choosing rental over fast food

Evans Equipment Co. celebrates 10 years in business

More than 10 years ago, Michelle and Jeff Evans went to The Rental Show and came back, heads filled with advice, hearts filled with trepidation and a stack of business cards from those who would become fast friends. They had purchased post-hole diggers and skid-steers. They were in the middle of constructing a new 9,000-sq.-ft. building. In short, life was in major flux. Then in April 2002, they opened their new rental store, Evans Equipment Co., in Glenwood, Iowa.

Jeff was no stranger to rental. The Evans have had a national hazardous waste removal business, Evans Environmental Construction, (evansenv.com) for 30 years. For bigger jobs with the environmental business, he would take some of his hazmat equipment along, but rent the rest at the site.

Before they decided to expand into a new business, the couple researched several ideas — including fast food — until they decided on rental. Then Jeff went looking for an association.

“I was a member of AGC [Associated General Contractors] and of the American Water Works Association. I knew there had to be a trade group or master brain behind the equipment rental industry. I knew Jim McElroy at Resource Rental Center in Council Bluffs and he directed me to the ARA [American Rental Association],” he says.

“The huge eye-opener was the show. That helped us determine which companies to buy from and what to buy. Everyone was willing to help. Rental people are so service-oriented. That’s why they want to take you by the hand,” he says.

Over the past 10 years, the couple has jumped into rental, head first. Michelle has served on the ARA of Iowa board in several capacities and both attend The Rental Show annually. Experiencing the ups and downs of rental through the economy hasn’t slowed their progress or excitement for the business.

“We didn’t expect the business to do a lot. It was just a side thing,” Jeff says. While the building was new, he says the location was not ideal — a mile down the road past the exit to Glenwood and on the opposite side of the interstate. The economy also proved challenging.

“If we did not have the environmental business, we would not be here today,” Michelle says.

Evans Equipment Co. found a buyer for its first location and moved into a 19,000-sq.-ft. facility in November 2010. Built in 1976, the former car dealership was vacant for a couple of years prior to Evans moving in. Located on the outskirts of town near the interstate highway, there was a huge paved yard for rows of equipment in addition to ample warehouse space.

“We’ve had a lot of positive comments from those in town on how it looks now,” Michelle says.

Today, tool and construction equipment rentals are increasing. “This year, our high lifts have been big. We had a lot of hailstorms. Trenchers rent well and so do our mini-excavators,” Jeff says.

The couple did expand their event rental selection at one point, but “we don’t have the market for party here,” Jeff said. “Basically what we have now is convenience items for our customers.”

That includes disposables, games, concession equipment, portable bars and balloons. “We do get calls for party equipment. We also carry placemats for the church ladies,” Michelle says.

Another part of their showroom is dedicated to Traeger® grills, while the remainder showcases Ariens Gravely equipment, products and hand tools.

Business has increased and the rental company is now poised to support itself and then some, they say. “This location has been huge,” Michelle says. Though Glenwood has a population of 6,000-plus, she says the rental business pulls from a 20,000 population service area. A new bridge planned between Bellevue, Neb., and Iowa, in 2013, should only help to expand the customer base, she says.

For the future, the decision remains whether to expand and hire more people. “The training process for help is long. There are so many things to know. Kids who are motorheads or farmers are great at it,” Michelle says. Also, the couple is looking at succession planning. “We are trying to look at strategic planning for not only our future, but the future of the business,” she says.

Both say the best part of getting into rental has been the people. “The customers, the rental store people and the vendors. We’ve made life-long friends and that wouldn’t have happened without getting into rental,” Michelle says.

Grilling up business

Traeger® Wood Pellet Grills are a specialty item for Evans Equipment Co. in Glenwood, Iowa. Pull up to the store on the weekend and you’ll find a grill smoking outside the warehouse.

“When we first opened, two of our best renters were two brothers who owned a landscaping business,” says Evans Equipment Co. owner Jeff Evans. “They wanted to sell Traeger grills, but they needed a storefront. They asked me to display the grills for them and I agreed. Two years later, all my friends and I have these grills. Meanwhile, the brothers wanted to get out of the business. I bought the inventory. We were just about to give up that business entirely when we sold a grill. That guy told all his friends and in the end we sold six grills. A month later, we sold all the wood pellets and since then, we’ve been doing well.”

The store displays four sizes of the grill, including one with a digital temperature display. The grills burn pellets that measure about a ¼ in. long and word is, the grills also can smoke turkeys.

“It’s a phenomenal product. Wood pellets go into a container on the side and then are shuttled to the center toward the igniter. You plug in the grill and the igniter turns red. An auger feeds the pellets into a hot pot where they are ignited by an electric hot rod. Then the pellets are fed at a rate established by the temperature setting that has been chosen. The food is cooked by 100 percent wood smoke and heat. The grill sits on top of a metal tray that creates a convection-like heat. The grill doesn’t have any open flame, so it’s really safe. They also are built to last. We’ve had ours eight years,” Evans says.   — Whitney Carnahan