Before he owned a party and event rental store in Fenton, Mo., Rick Nadler lived a completely different life. "I sold to the nuclear power industry and products to the U.S. Navy for nuclear submarines. I traveled 45 weeks out of the year," he says.
A division of his company sold products to the rental industry, so Nadler decided to join the companys rental representative and attend a regional American Rental Association (ARA) show in Missouri in 1993, where he met Robert "Bob" Detzel. The pair discussed starting their own rental company. "Within a year, we were in business as a Grand Rental Station," he says.
The change in careers allowed him to spend more time with his sons, David and Matt. Now, the three work together. David is vice president of operations and Matt works with customer service at Grand Rental Station. "They really run it now," says Nadler, who is the companys president.
Grand Rental Station originally opened in November 1994 as a tool rental store. "When we started out in rental, we didnt plan to rent party. Bob suggested adding some equipment. Its probably the best piece of business advice weve had," Nadler says.
The company initially bought 100 white chairs, 50 brown chairs, a dozen 60-in. round tables, a dozen 8-ft. rectangular tables and place settings for 50 people. The business opened in November and when construction rentals began to trail off, calls for party started to come in.
"Every time I got an order, I had to buy more chairs," he says.
Between 1998 and 2000, the store slowly transitioned to party and event equipment rental, eventually phasing out tool rental in July 2000. As a result, "the business grew 150 percent in 2000," he says. Inventory also grew by leaps and bounds and Nadler says the company now has more than 5,000 place settings.
However, 2001 was a difficult year for the company. Detzel who was out of the business by that time, but had been a mentor for Nadler died in July 2001. In August 2001, the business found the perfect new location, a 20,000-sq.-ft. building to lease that would provide additional storage and moved.
Then on Sept. 11, 2001, the terrorist attacks changed the face of the nation. "It took us two years to recover. All the big events were cancelled," says Nadlers son, David.
As a result, Nadler says, he became very careful about how he spent money and how he marketed the company. "We worked harder with direct selling and marketing. If we didnt have to spend, we didnt spend. We looked at the necessities. Thats about the time we discussed the Web," he says.
Today, www.Grandrental-stl.com includes photos, prices and names of products offered, as well as a "whats new" product section, photos of events, a series of tips for events and contact information.
A combination of the Web presence and Nadlers position as president of the local Chamber of Commerce also helps drive in-person business. "Every year were here, we get more walk-in business," he says.
The showroom, though small, displays an example of several items, including a canopy with lighting, place settings, chairs, centerpieces and photos of various events. Every quarter, on holidays and once a month during the slow season, the showroom is revamped with different products.
Visitors also might be directed to the spic-and-span warehouse to see specific products and the warehouse has several features that make it keen for visitors.
"Im very, very particular about the quality of the product," Nadler says. That much is obvious once visitors step into the dish room which doesnt happen very often, thanks to the "Dish Room Personnel Only!" sign.
The dish room is a separate drywalled room built in the warehouse. From the time dishes come back in from an event, they are immediately hauled to a nearby staging area. Dishes are washed, then dried and inspected inside the room. Dishes are then racked and allowed to dry for a day before being inspected and packaged. Once packaged, dishes are then allowed back out into the main warehouse.
"Its 100-percent quality control on every piece, every dish," Nadler says.
The quality control starts at the two drive-in and two dock doors and from there, staging goes to the back wall. Linens are sent out for cleaning, but every other product is handled in-house. Electrical appliances are tested when they come in at a station by the dish room.
While not every product has its own room, each section is separated and all products are on a racking system. The store carries tents from 60 ft. up to 150 ft., chairs and tables, and each gets just as much attention.
"We clean every chair before it goes back out. We repair each table. Over the winter, we refurbish pieces," he says.
The 28-ft. ceiling in the warehouse offers plenty of room for expansion, considering the shelves are currently 8 ft. high. "We can go up another 20 ft. and weve considered a mezzanine," he says.
Increasing the height will mean stackable pallets and forklifts, he says, and building will mean an inspection. The decision to move up, literally, is still in the works.
However, the business is growing again and the growth doesnt stop at Grand Rental Stations location. The Nadlers have been busy outside the warehouse as well, starting Triple N Vineyard in Rosebud, Mo., to make wine to go with their many types of glassware.
"Weve planted a vineyard and have harvested our first crop," he says, adding that both the wine and rental businesses have been great so far. "I have my sons with me, it keeps the family close and we get along well. We do enjoy each other," he says.