Like many party rental operations, Bob Mutton Party and Tent Rental, Fort Wayne, Ind., began as a tool and equipment rental business. With a passion for entertaining and throwing parties, Bob and his wife Linda added a few tents, tables and chairs to the inventory. In 12 years, party rental grew to 70 percent of the business, so in 1999, Mutton auctioned the equipment rental and put his total focus on tents and event rental.
“We built a new showroom and added on to our warehouse as we geared our attention toward the upper-end market, offering clean, high quality inventory with professional service,” he says.
Mutton says that one thing he has learned over the years is to always have an open mind and never say he can’t provide a service or product until he knows what the opportunity will bring him. One such opportunity came recently when a customer wanted a clear-top tent, an unusual request in a conservative, Midwestern market.
“After a meeting with the client, my son [Matt] knew this was the job we have always wanted to do—a 40-by-60-foot clear-top tent, flooring, carpeting, custom linens, china, pin spot lighting on all the tables. We also did three add-on tents—one for the band, one for the children’s area and one for catering.”
In this stalled economy, the industry is challenged by rental rates, especially as they relate to return-on-investment, Mutton says.
“A lot of companies are lowering their prices to get jobs just to generate cash flow,” he says. “They are not only devaluing what we do in our industry, they are also creating a downward turn that they may never be able to recover from. Once they look at the cost to replace their old, worn out inventory, they will not have the profits to borrow or the cash flow to purchase new equipment as the economy turns around.”
Putting together unique events and working on challenging sites are two of the things Mutton, a member of Tent Rental Division of IFAI, enjoys about the industry.
“Coming up with the ideas, putting it all together and having a successful event are what keep me coming back for more,” he says.