What does it take to mold a business from a six-car garage right behind a New Jersey liquor store into the nation’s leading party goods and special events rental firm?
The success that Party Rental enjoys today is a direct result of the vision of Michael Halperin and his wife Sunny. From the garage in 1972 to a 10,000 square-foot location a year later, and now some 400,000 square feet of warehouse space, the Party Rental Ltd. story reads like a great movie script.
Pretty hard to imagine that a business of this size grew from liquor store customers of Oprandy’s Liquor Store in Englewood, N.J. Oprandy’s rented tables, chairs and glasses as a service to its customers who were coming to buy beer, wine and liquor for their home parties. The original inventory consisted of 100 wooden chairs, one style of china, 50 tables and a few assorted odds and ends. Michael and Sunny Halperin acquired the rental business from Oprandy’s in April 1972.
“When they acquired the business, they stopped focusing on the local New Jersey pick-up business that the company was founded on and expanded their focus to reach over the bridge into New York City,” says Alan Gottlich, the firm’s Executive Vice President. “Very early on, they knew that to make a difference, they were going to need to be a trend-setter in the industry.”
“Michael Halperin was the visionary and Sunny Halperin had the business savvy to execute his vision,” Gottlich added. “In those days, most caterers carried hotel quality china, and plain white linens. There was, believe it or not, no such thing as a round linen. Everything was in squares, which were used as overlays. As Michael partnered with the caterers, he quickly understood — obviously through meeting and getting to know their business — that they wanted to take it to a new level,” Alan explained. “That meant having the quality and styling of products that would enable the caterers to serve a restaurant-quality service in an off-premise location.”
“From the very start, they had a great feel for fine china, flatware and glassware in a wide range of colors and styles,” Gottlich explained. Our company quickly became the fashion forward industry leader and remains that way today.
“We are designed to be an outsourced partner to all of our customers,” Gottlich noted. “And as such, we need to supply them with what they need. We’re constantly meeting with our customers to try and understand what the needs are, what their future needs are going to be and where our inventory has gaps in it that we need to fill in order to accommodate their needs. That’s a mainstay of our purchasing, sales and design teams- to engage with our customers all the time.”
Ultimately, customers are the trendsetters in the industry, Gottlich maintains. “They know what’s trendy so we need to support that and we obviously need them to provide that constant input.” But that’s not easy to accomplish. “We are purchasing for tomorrow’s season, so we are about a year ahead of time in that sense. Our designers and internal purchasing teams are currently evaluating the colors, designs and the styles of what will come out in spring of 2017. So we need to be ahead of the game,” Gottlich says.
To do that, the company’s purchasing and design specialists are constantly traveling to shows as well as to manufacturers they have relationships with for custom design products. “We import about 70% of our products,” Gottlich said.
“Our products need to be rentable. So they have to go through the industrial cleaning process and withstand the type of transportation and handling our business requires. For all new products, there is a lot of testing and a lot of quality control. From a styling point of view, we go everywhere from Paris to Germany and throughout the U.S., and are constantly trying to evaluate future trends,” he adds.
And the styles are different from place to place; something the company has to be very aware of. “New York definitely has its own style, but New York style is very different from Washington D.C. style. Paris does lead the tabletop trend from a design point of view. There’s no doubt about that. But a lot of product actually comes out of places like India, which produces a lot of handmade products that are unique and different. They have a different kind of design.”
This month will mark an exciting new chapter at Party Rental Ltd. as it debuts its furniture division. “We’ve never offered furniture before and it’s a natural extension of what we do to offer a one-stop shopping experience for our customers,” Gottlich outlined. “The kind of furniture we’re looking at has a versatile and a timeless look.”
The Furniture collection has over 100 unique pieces and includes the new Metro line, which is modular lounge furniture that’s available in 100 different configurations, including black and white options, and the Somerset line, which is resin wicker furniture geared more towards the outdoor look, but can be used indoors as well.
The furniture division is a separate section of the warehouse, reconfigured and redesigned to accommodate this new part of the business. “We brought in different kinds of racking systems and material handling systems that enable us to store and manage furniture,” Alan says. “We have identified a special crew who is highly trained in the wrapping, delivery, and handling of all these items.
While the company is very excited about its growth into this new business offering, it acknowledges that it brings a new skillset to be executed. “We’ve done a lot of test runs and internal preparation, because again our reputation’s on the line. When we come out with a new product, we can’t do it in a way that is on a trial basis. It has to meet our quality execution level,” Gottlich elaborated.
As with most businesses, technology has been playing a big part. “Technology has been a cornerstone to our success. We consider ourselves the industry leader in technology. All of the technologies that we use are proprietary and self-created. We have a team of 10 IT people led by an IT director who is constantly developing, updating and changing what we use. We have everything from GPS technology for all of our trucks, automated routing systems, RFID chips in our linens, scan technology in our equipment, inventory management systems, warehouse management systems, all customized to the unique way of how we do business.”
“As you know, it’s a fast-paced business. We have over 3,000 SKUs of products and we take 50% of our orders within 24 hours of delivery. So there’s a lot of complicated logistics and there’s a lot of moving parts. And it all happens through the aid of technology because, without technology, we could never have grown to the level we are at today.”
Gottlich knows that a key to Party Rental’s success is in the quality of the management. “You’ve got to have a really dedicated and uniquely gifted team. We have the most experienced and talented sales staff in the industry. Every one of our sales team members, before they were selling rental products, had a background in the industry of some sort, from the catering side, food service side, or even from the floral side. They bring to the table a skill set where they understand our clients because they were in the business and in the client’s shoes at one point in their career. And each sales person is a party animal, meaning they love this business. They are completely invested in being there with our clients throughout the life cycle of an event. This industry is a 24/7 business. And that’s the level of dedication that we have in our team.”
Party Rental Ltd. is quite excited about all the opportunity New York City offers. “There’s a lot of construction, a lot of building going on,” Gottlich said. “We’re going to be a part of all that. It is absolutely astounding the amount of activity in New York City, all the new money coming in and the high profile events that continue to happen and outdo each other, and year over year, continue to grow.”
The company has even grown beyond Metro New York to become the East Coast’s largest party rental supplier. “Today we are housed in four warehouses and five showrooms, which service New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington D.C.”