Prospering Company: Perry’s Party Rental

The air gets colder, the days get shorter and the holiday season draws closer. Soon it will be time for family, goodwill and celebrations.
 
Luckily, Perry’s Party Rentals is an expert in all three of those things.

Family-owned for 37 years, the Pontiac-based business will outfit all types of holiday soirees with festive chair and table covers, table settings, glasses, food service supplies and concession equipment like popcorn carts and snow cone machines.

“I think we’re one of the standard-bearers,” says Stan Perry, Jr., co-owner with sisters Lorelai Perry-Ninomiya and Kathie Renton. “We work with our customers. We’re always talking to them, and we’re adding new services this year. … My prices are very fair.”

Perry’s Party Rentals recently introduced custom linens for the holidays and plans to offer special deals in the coming months.

Even with the dark days of the recession still upon the state, Perry’s Party Rentals recently expanded its service area to include Lapeer and Genesee counties. Perry says the business now covers “the entire southeast Michigan region.”

In addition, a new Web site and brochure helps the business get ahead of the competition during the recession so it can emerge stronger when the tough times are over.

Perry says he’s already seeing some signs of life. “Some customers I haven’t seen in eight months are starting to come back.”

Though the idea of expending more costs at a time when most businesses are making drastic cuts may sound risky, it is a typical proactive, energetic approach Perry has always taken to his business.

Started in 1972 by Stan Perry, Sr., the business was originally a tool rental franchise. Over the years, Perry’s father saw that the market for party rentals was growing, so it wasn’t long before the tool business was offering party equipment for rent as well. Within a few years, says Perry, “the party rentals business gobbled up the equipment rentals.”

By the early 1980s, the business had phased out the tools and named themselves Perry’s Party Rentals.

Or as Perry puts it, “We swapped out engine grease for food grease.”

It was a move that paid off. The business grew steadily until the end of 2008, when the recession prompted many companies and individuals to either cancel or tone down their celebrations.

But while dire economic news sent most business owners scrambling to cut costs, Perry went back to school — sort of.

Actually, he talked to Lola Are, who runs Oakland County’s Venture Forward program and encouraged him to enroll. A 10-week program, Venture Forward helps existing entrepreneurs grow their businesses with sound business practices and action plans. The weekly sessions typically include guest speakers, individualized coaching and long-term mentoring from area professionals.

He took Are’s advice and enrolled. “I thought it was an excellent program,” says Perry, a business graduate of Walsh College. “It was a college course, if you really dug your teeth into it. It gave me the opportunity to look internally. What can we do to make our business a better business?”

The recession, it turns out, has not been kind of several of Perry’s competitors. But like any good entrepreneur, Perry is stubbornly optimistic.

“We knew we had to do something,” he says. “It lit the wick. I said, ‘We can’t just rest on our laurels. Let’s get this done. We’re looking to be the one to get out of this [recession] in a better position than our competitors.”

That attitude may be the reason Perry is looking at what could be rather than what is. “We’re taking a positive stance toward sales, not just sitting there and worrying about sales.”

While Stan Perry, Sr. still visits the business from time to time, Perry says the success is due to dedication on the part of his staff, which in addition to his sisters also includes his wife, Judy, who he calls “the goddess of all accounting.”

The staff makes customer service a priority, he adds, even when they’re speaking on the phone. “They always sound like they have a smile on their face.”

And, with staff helping to keep the business running smoothly, Perry is able to look ahead. He wants his business poised for growth and innovation so that this challenging time will actually work to the company’s benefit.

It’s not about just surviving the economy, Perry says, but being part of Michigan’s eventual triumph.

Perry’s Party Rentals is located at 550 S. Old Telegraph in Pontiac. For more on prices and services, visit the Web site at www.perryspartyrentals.com or call 248-334-1577.