SOUTH ABINGTON TWP. – It still happens a few times a year at Boulevard Rental, though the occurrences have lessened as the calendar has advanced beyond 2008. But every so often, someone telephones or walks into the office and asks to rent a skid-steer or an excavator. The requesters are sent elsewhere, because this company got out of the equipment-rental business a decade ago, after the Great Recession caused many construction projects to halt or never commence.
“Most people would rather party than work,” said James Brouillard, the owner, explaining the commercial philosophy of Boulevard Rental. Its equipment inventory long gone, the company’s sole purpose is renting fixtures used for wedding receptions, graduations and other parties.
Boulevard Rental’s employees regularly set up for gatherings at places in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, but also make frequent trips to Susquehanna and Wyoming counties and the Poconos. They don’t leave the state, but many of the customers – particularly brides and grooms – will travel here.
“We have unbeatable venues in this area,” Brouillard said. “Some of these places are absolutely gorgeous spots at which to have a wedding.”
Boulevard Rental’s business is sectioned into thirds, according to the owner. Sales involving weddings bring in about 33 percent revenues, private parties such as graduations generate about a third, and the remainder comes from corporate events.
June and July are the busiest months for graduations, Brouillard said, while demand for wedding parties is the highest in September and October.
“We will do weddings year-around, but we just don’t do tents year-around,” he added.
The largest pole tents available are 40 feet wide and 100 feet long. There are two of them in the inventory because, on the busiest weekends, Boulevard Rental services two parties simultaneously. At larger events, as many as 250 guests will be under cover.
“Our business is very good because we go after the wedding business,” Brouillard said. “We do medium-size parties really well. I don’t like to get involved with big, $50,000 or $60,000 weddings. Or little weddings.”
Boulevard Rental uses a fleet of cube trucks to transport items from the warehouse to the venue. For a Saturday wedding, Brouillard and his crews prefer to set up on Thursday.
“You want to be out of there on Friday and Saturday,” he said. “You don’t want to be anywhere near the brides on those two days. They’ve got too much to do.”
Takedown, which is faster because the work is aided by gravity, occurs on Monday or Tuesday. Wednesday is packing day for upcoming Saturday weddings.
Brouillard, 47, started at Boulevard Rental in 1990 when he was a student at Marywood University. It was a summer job. The company was then owned by Bill Mullin, the founder, and Tim Horan. In 2000, Mullin retired and sold his stake in the business to Brouillard. Four years ago, Brouillard became the sole owner.
With sales strong, and with people getting married all over the state, Brouillard was asked if he thought of opening a second location. Wasn’t the Boulevard Rental concept exportable to another community?
“I couldn’t do it,” he said. “In this industry, it’s all labor. It’s very hard organizing everybody. And I’m hands-on. I’m on the road, setting up. I’m not sitting in an office. I can’t imagine doing it for two stores.”
There are 10 employees during the summer. Earlier this month, the staff level had dropped to the typical wintertime count of three, including the owner.
“Right now, we’re doing a lot of cleaning, lot of fixing,” Brouillard said, taking a break in the showroom. On display were some of the chairs, tables, place settings and other fixtures available for rental. February is a slow time of year, but beginning in April, future brides and their mothers will begin visiting he store to plan their weddings.
Boulevard Rentals uses a la carte pricing. Brouillard believes package deals are impractical.
“Every bride is so different in what they want,” he said. “They want different color lines, different types of chairs. Different this. Different that.”
Brouillard said someone could spend from $200 to $12,000 renting items from his company. The average tab for a wedding is $4,000, which includes a tent, chairs, linens, a dance floor and tables.
Boulevard Rentals has an inventory of 500 tables, including 20 constructed in-house from wood salvaged from a local barn built 150 years ago.
“You wouldn’t want to cover these up with linens,” Brouillard said, running a hand over the top of one of the tables. “They’re beautiful.”
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