Marty Rodriguez Century 21 Real Estate

These Brothers Are Not for Sale, But They Are for Rent … by Peter Bennett

December 22, 2013
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Tom Hughes will rent you everything from a sewer snake to a scissors lift, just no snow blowers, at least not yet anyway.

Tom Hughes will rent you everything from a sewer snake to a scissors lift, just no snow blowers, at least not yet anyway.

Tom and Tim Hughes are good people to know, especially this time of year.

When Cordel Goode over-invited guests to her nighttime Christmas party this year, she feared they would spill onto her patio and freeze to death, given the recent snap of cold weather. Tim got her some patio heaters.

“He solved my problem, and I was really pleased,” Goode said.

Another resident wanted to impress his neighbors by stringing Christmas tree lights to the top of his 30-foot tree. Tom delivered a 30-foot scissors lift to his driveway.

Tom and Tim are the owners of Hometown Rentals, which boasts rental yards in Pomona and San Dimas. This year completes their 25th year in business.

To each brother, it seems like only yesterday when Tom saw an 8 ½ by 11 white sheet of paper advertising that C&G Rentals in San Dimas was for sale. At the time, Tom was a food broker and Tim sold hardware, software and training support to rental yards. The C&G owner initially dismissed Tom as a looky-loo, but when Tom returned with a broker specializing in purchasing rental yards, the owner knew he was serious.

For seed money, Tom approached his parents and said he needed “X” dollars.

“My mom said I’ll give you “Y,” but if you’re brother comes in, I’ll give you the other half, and you’ll have “X.”

She was a smart momma, and the two brothers have been in business ever since, renting post-hole diggers, bolt cutters, air nailers, wood chippers, chain saws, stump grinders, sanders, polishers, scrubbers, pool pumps, hydraulic and mechanical jacks, hedge trimmers, tractors, trailers and a full supply of party rentals from tent tops to dance floors.

“About the only thing we don’t rent is a snow blower,” Tim said.

For Tom, who also sits on the board of the California Rental Association, buying, then growing, a rental yard business was a natural.

“I had always worked on cars, houses, boats and bicycles,” he said in his bunker-like Garey Ave. office. “I was intrigued that this was just like owning a huge garage stuffed with tools. But instead of owning one air compressor, I might own 10.”

After purchasing the San Dimas location, they added the Pomona store and a third in Arcadia. They have since sold the Arcadia store. Through their years, their inventory has grown, reflecting the needs of the community and customer requests.

They’ve warded off competition by the flight-by-nights and the Home Depots, which entered the rental business about five years ago.

“You always sweat customers,” Tom said, “but time always tells, and we’re still here. People know who we are and how to find us. You stay and make it work.”

Indeed, that has been a winning formula for the brothers. So, when a freak windstorm ripped through the Southland a couple of Christmases ago, contractors and homeowners alike knew whom to call for generators, chainsaws, wood chippers and log splitters.

No party is too big or small for Tim Hughes, at party rental central in San Dimas.

No party is too big or small for Tim Hughes, at party rental central in San Dimas.

“That log splitter is a heckuva deal,” Tom said. “It’s better than using an axe or a sledge hammer. For $97.50 a day, you can split the logs mechanically. All you have to do is drag the log to the splitter and pull the handle.”

Although Tom and Tim know their business inside out, they admit things don’t always go off without a hitch or that every item that goes out the door, comes back through the door.

Tom recalls how a customer crashed one of his trailers doing 75 mph down the 57 freeway while intoxicated and hauling a concrete saw. More recently, he said he got a call from the Riverside County district attorney’s office saying it had retrieved a trailer he had rented more than a year earlier.

When items aren’t returned per agreement, and the customer’s deposit doesn’t cover the extra hours or days, Tom or Tim will find themselves in small claims court. “These are exceptions, not the rule,” Tim said.

To ensure their customers receive a positive experience, Tom, Tim or one of their employees will patiently and painstakingly show the customer how to safely operate every rental in their yard.  If they like, customers can also purchase insurance if they feel they need that extra layer of protection in the event of operator error.

“Insurance doesn’t cover stupidity, however,” Tom said, chuckling.

Still, their business M.O. has been to rent to just about anybody, believing you can’t judge a book by its cover. “Well, we try not to rent to tweakers,” Tom said.

Another reason Tom and Tim have been successful – even through serious economic downturns – is they literally cater to all seasons. When it’s the holiday season, their party rental business booms and when spring arrives and thoughts turn to home improvement projects, they see demand for lawn, garden and concrete-related (jack-hammering, sawing, pouring, hauling, etc.) projects pick up.

The San Dimas rental yard houses all of the party rental equipment. Indeed, it features a separate showroom filled with china and flatware, plus snow cone, popcorn and cotton candy machines.

“We didn’t want to have a lady in here planning a wedding while she was seated next to a sewer snake,” Tim said.

When it comes to rentals, Tom and Tim believe they pretty much have it all. If you live in the area, you’ve probably been sheltered by one of their clear- or white-walled tents at an Easter sunrise service or a San Dimas rodeo. They constantly invest in new equipment and thoroughly test everything before it leaves the yard.  Indeed, they believe so much in what they carry and how it can be used and applied to help customers save time and money, they would like to see more people undertake their own projects, ending what Tom called the “wimpification” of America, whereby Americans outsource too many doable tasks to others.

When a customer drives by the Pomona facility, there’s no mistaking that it’s a rental yard. The San Dimas store, however, features a steeple and an arch, which you could easily mistake for a church, mission or mausoleum.

“Some people drive by and sign the cross,” Tim said, smiling.

Perhaps, that’s the appropriate response. That’s because the business has been a godsend for many, like Mrs. Goode, who at the last second realized she needed those heat lamps to keep her guests warm on a cold winter night.

It has also been a blessing that has helped two brothers build a business and a bond now about to enter its second quarter century.

The Pomona rental yard (909.596.3799) is at 2610 N. Garey Ave. The San Dimas store (909.599.3141) is at 1325 W. Arrow Hwy. For more information, visit www.hometownrentals.net.