About a decade after he sold his five rental stores, Frank Wilson returned to the rental industry in July, opening Frank Wilson’s Equipment Center in
|Wilson in 2000 as ARA president|
“The only regret I have had about getting out of the rental business is that I underestimated how good the business was,” says Wilson, who served as ARA president in 2000. “I still have the enthusiasm. The candle burns bright and there is a need for this type of service for the homeowner and do-it-yourselfer.”
Wilson says his new store is a true “mom and pop” operation as the staff includes his wife, a stepson and one other employee. His greatest pride comes from helping someone complete a project with his help, even if it means sending the customer to another rental store.
“It’s foolish to tell a customer, ‘I can’t help you.’ I try to help the customer no matter what. People at church tease me. They say, “Frank may not have it, but he knows where to find it and if he can’t find, you probably don’t need it.’”
Wilson wasn’t idle after he sold his rental stores. He also had a construction company that specialized in moving houses that were going to be destroyed for commercial development. He would hire a company to move the house where he set up a subdivision and then flip them.
“I moved around 100 houses. That was a good business for me, but all of sudden the economy went south and people couldn’t get financed to buy the homes. It was nothing like it used to be. I was at the age to retire, but I didn’t want to retire. My wife and I talked about it and decided to open another rental store because I enjoy what I do,” he says.
What he enjoys is helping people. “A young fellow came in and wanted a mini excavator, but he didn’t have a truck to pull it. We said we would deliver it. It was out, but we got it to him, added a post-hold digger and the job he had was all taken care of. He walks in and says, ‘I need to pay you.’ The moral of the story is you help a guy out and go above and beyond. It doesn’t hurt anybody. This is a feel-good business. You rent something to them to do the job because they are looking for information. They know about what they want, but don’t have the expertise to know what will work best to get the job done. That’s where we come in,” Wilson says.
He says the biggest hurdle in getting back into business was convincing suppliers to offer special terms, but he also studied the market and chose a location with plenty of growth potential about five miles from where one of his previous rental stores had been located.
“I did my homework. In this town over the last four years, 2,700 homes have been built, even with the economic downturn. When I was looking where the growth is, it was right in our own backyard,” he says.
He purchased repossessed property on a busy street and built a new 3,200-sq.-ft. facility before acquiring all new inventory including a mini-excavator, plumbing equipment, post-hole diggers, zero-turn lawnmowers, aerators, wood splitters, tables, chairs, small tents, popcorn and sno-cone machines, and more.
“We are a 100 percent general rental center and run the gamut of equipment. We’ve even done some small weddings,” Wilson says.
He doesn’t expect to expand again to five stores, but he is thinking about adding a building next door specifically for party rental. “There’s more money in party rental than I’m trying to get right now,” he says.