The end of an era has come to the Arizona rental industry. Aero Rental, Tucson, Ariz., has shut its doors after more than 63 years in the business. Aero Rental was founded in 1947 by the late Thomas Mitchell Hoxie, who was inducted into the Rental Hall of Fame during The Rental Show in Atlanta in 2009.
Pamela Bowles, Hoxie’s daughter and president of Aero Rental, says the family doesn’t foresee economic improvement happening soon enough in their area and wanted to wrap up business in a way that was best for all involved.
“Tucson has been hit hard,” Bowles says. “There are 20 rental yards in town and business is spread so thin. I can’t see it coming back for the next two to five years. We are fortunate in this economy to be able to finish on our terms, taking care of our obligations and employees. We gave our employees plenty of notice.”
Hoxie was one of the first rental operators to join the American Rental Association (ARA), then called the American Associated Rental Operators, during the 1957 convention in Omaha, Neb. Aero Rentals has been an ARA member ever since. When it was discovered he’d owned a rental business longer than anyone else at the convention, Hoxie was placed on the program so other attendees could learn from his experiences, launching his involvement with the association.
He was elected to the board of directors in 1959 and appointed executive vice president for 1961-1962. He served on a variety of ARA committees, helped establish the awards committee in 1962 and wrote numerous articles for Rental Age (now Rental Management). He was honored as “Rental Man of the Year” in 1964 and received ARA’s Distinguished Service Award in 1968. In 1975, he was the first director at large on the ARA board when that position was created to represent the association’s past officers and directors. Realizing the importance of communication and cooperation among local rental companies, Hoxie organized the Tucson Equipment Rental Association in the early 1970s and served as its first president.
Hoxie retired from Aero Rentals in the early 1980s, though he continued to stop by the business regularly. He passed away in 1984.
Hoxie had been a contractor in California and, for health reasons, moved to Tucson in the 1940s. His plan was to build houses in the post-World War II era. With a few pieces of small equipment and three lots he purchased just east of Reid Park, he set about building his own house and two others.
Soon neighbors, who also were building their houses, began to constantly ask to borrow equipment. Then when he was ready to use a certain piece of equipment, he would find someone had borrowed it and he had to go looking for it. To discourage this, he decided to hang a “For Rent” sign on the equipment so he could get on with his own work. That prompted not only the people who had been borrowing, but also those who had been hesitant to borrow, to come to him and ask “How much?” Hoxie then had to buy more mixers, wheelbarrows and other tools because his original ones were rented when he needed them.
He eventually leased an old gas station and, with a 12-party phone line, he launched the rental industry in Tucson. In 1949, Aero moved into its own building. At that time, Aero handled both homeowner and contractor customers. Over the next 10 years, Aero added several locations. In 1960, the company purchased the property at 3808 East Golf Links Road and built the main office. It was at this time that Aero decided to concentrate on the contractor trade.
Bowles said her father worked with a lot of the suppliers around the country to educate them on how important the rental industry was going to be.
“He believed very much in sharing information. It’s amazing to me how many things he helped implement that are still practiced today. He could see the future [of rental] and I wish he could see what’s happened in the last 25 years. He was very much ahead of his time,” she says.
Today, Bowles says, the rental industry has changed somewhat. “I personally don’t like the price cutting that’s going on. They are giving away the store and that’s not helping anybody,” she says.
However, the family appreciates the experiences they have had in the business and feel rental will bounce back, just not soon enough for Aero. “Over the years we’ve partnered with hundreds of great people in the construction industry to help transform Southern Arizona and Phoenix. We wish them all the best,” she says.
At the end of 2010, Aero had two locations in Tucson and one in Phoenix. Vern Palmer, general manager of the Phoenix branch, and his son, Jason, plan to reopen as Aero Equipment Supply and buy the equipment from Aero Rental. “They are going to sell turf equipment and do some renting,” Bowles says.
Bowles and her brother, Greg Hoxie, are both looking into different avenues. “I have an opportunity to go off and design kitchens and my brother is looking into possibly buying a franchise,” she says.