After a year of challenges, Peak Event Services steps into the future steeped in gratitude.
by Cathy Broberg
When describing a business in mid-2021, a stark line separates life before and after the pandemic. Looking back is the easy part. Headquartered near Boston, Mass., Peak Event Services was incorporated in 1952 as Peterson Party Rental. Its roots extend further though—company lore says it began in the late 1800s by renting chairs for funerals. Over time, its capabilities and services expanded; it now provides rentals for events ranging from weddings and corporate outings to backyard parties and galas throughout New England. It has acquired numerous regional companies over the last 12 years and maintains six showrooms. “We’ve just continued to build upon the brand, rebranding as Peak Event Services in 2017 and here we are—just grateful that we made it and trying to figure out 2021,” says Tarryn Prosper, senior director of tent sales.
With tenting and equipment divisions, Peak Event Services historically worked with individuals and event planners—the “social market”—on the tenting side, with university and nonprofit work rounding out its client base on the equipment side.
COVID-19 restrictions sidelined its equipment division in 2020, while the tenting division saw business growth in previously untapped areas, such as government and municipal organizations, education, and medical and emergency response.
Challenges that keep coming
Peak Event Services recently shifted gears once again. When news hit that Massachusetts would lift all restrictions on May 29, 2021, the company’s phone lines lit up. Suddenly, plans for events changed, as did rental requests. “I stopped keeping track but we had done hundreds of projects within 24 hours of the first phone call,” Prosper says.
Many of its challenges today differ from a year ago. Business is booming but it is braving supply chain disruptions and skyrocketing prices. In 2019, Peak Event Services was nearing the 1,000-employee mark but is now rebuilding its ranks.
While New England provides awe-inspiring backdrops for events—mountains, coast and city—each area presents unique challenges. For example, city events demand both creativity and the right size structures. “We have a lot of confined spaces here,” Prosper says. “We’re trying to fit a lot of things, squeeze into spaces,” explaining that this requires an inventory with unique size products.
Quality is a key value, no matter the job. “We just did a stage cover for a graduation last weekend and it was simple—but it looked so clean and so good. We got so many comments on it. I think that is representative of what we do and who we are,” says Prosper. “Anybody can look at a glamorous huge structure wedding where the designer comes in and does all these beautiful, amazing things and think, ‘Wow, that was amazing!’ But when you take something that’s really utilitarian . . . and you can make it beautiful, I think that really speaks to our commitment to design quality and product.”
Rebuilding with care
Peak Event Services is peeling back the lessons from the pandemic. “It’s our responsibility as leaders in the company to try to build things back the right way and not react to the current time,” explains Prosper. Rather than rely on quick fixes to get through this year, it is asking tough questions about what is best for the brand, its people and its product needs over the long term. Prosper says the company is stronger now than in 2019, a result of taking a hard look at everything over the past year—and a deeper commitment from staff.
She is equally optimistic about the industry: “The tent and event industry is a group of really dedicated, scrappy people that will build this whole thing back better than it was before.” Prosper says.
Cathy Broberg is a writer and editor who lives near Minneapolis, Minn.
SIDEBAR: Peak Event Services
Year founded: Incorporated in 1952, rooted in late 1800s
Employs: 200 year-round; 350 during peak season
Primary business: Rentals for weddings, corporate and nonprofit events, galas and backyard parties