By Jesse Wood
April 17, 2014. Leslie Sullivan was in high school whenever her father Harris Campbell, a reputable banker in Boone, started renting port-a-johns on the side. In 1972, Harris decided to buy a trailer load of these portable restrooms on the way back from vacationing in Newport News, Va., and parked them in a vacant lot behind their home on Farthing Street.
To say the least, Sullivan wasn’t thrilled about the prospects of having a backyard full of portable toilets.
“Those were very important days and your dad decides to leave the banking business where he was a head honcho, and he goes to pumping port-a-johns. That was quite a bit for a 16-year-old girl to take in,” Leslie said.
But Harris had a plan.
Just a year earlier, Harris and his wife Ruby and their children Leslie and John Campbell moved from Wilmington to the High Country when the former First National Bank of Eastern North Carolina opened a branch in Boone. They, like nearly everyone else who visits the area, fell in love with the mountains, so Harris knew he needed a fallback plan before his job shipped him somewhere else.
“Dad wore a suit in the day and came home in the afternoon and changed into his port-a-john clothes and pumped port-a-johns in the evening until dark,” Leslie said. “Sometimes as far away as Hickory when they built the Hickory Mall. That was one of the first big jobs.”
In 1975, Harris opened the first brick-and-mortar Boone Rent-All store on East King Street. Just before Harris was about to open that first day, Harris was eating breakfast at Boone Drug and telling some of the regulars down there how he was beginning to rent equipment. Well, one of those guys came down to the shop on East King Street shortly thereafter and rented a ladder, which was one of the only two items in the new shop.
“Dad didn’t know what to charge him. He barely had a pencil and paper,” John said. “We joke that we rented 50 percent of the inventory on that first day and we’ve been trying to get back to that level ever since. That’s the beginning of Boone Rent-All.”
When you walk into Boone Rent-All on the N.C. 105 Bypass some 40 years later, the selection, of course, is more diverse with more options, but that jigsaw – the only other tool for rent that first day – is still around. It hangs on the wall behind the cash register attached to a plaque that reads: “This, hardwork and a dream.” Employees had that made for Harris and Ruby.
Four ‘Buckets’ of Goods and Services
Boone Rent-All has evolved quite a bit since those initial days. Now it operates four “buckets,” as described by John, of goods and services in three locations – Avery Rent-All in Banner Elk; Pro Rent-All & Parties Too in Spindale; and Boone Rent-All & Parties Too. Boone Rent-All moved from East King Street to its current location on the bypass in the mid-‘80s. The Avery branch opened in 1984 and the Spindale branch opened in 1994.
1. Equipment Rentals
Perhaps the largest category of offerings at Boone Rent-All is the construction and homeowner rentals. From large excavators to small carpet cleaners, Boone Rent-All has it all to complete a job of any size. Check out the rentable categories below and click here for more info.
- Air Compressors & Tools
- Backhoes & Loaders
- Carpenter’s Tools
- Compaction Equipment
- Concrete Drilling & Chiseling
- Drywall & Sheetrock
- Floor Care
- Household Items
- Lawn & Garden
- Material/Man Lifts
- Masonry, Concrete & Tile
- Mechanic/Automotive Needs
- Moving Equipment
- Painting & Preperation
- Portable Restrooms
- Safety Equipment
- Transit & Measuring Devices
2. Party Rentals
A second bucket is the party rentals, which Ruby started in the early ‘80s with eight-inch glass plates and punch cups, according to Leslie. This section covers corporate events, dinner parties, charitable events and mostly weddings, which John said add a lot of fun to the business.
“Our brides come in and there is a picture as clear as a bell in their mind of what they want,” John said. “[Our staff’s] job is to try to get the words out of them to paint this picture and make it a reality, so when the bride walks around the corner what she sees is darn close to what she has in mind.”
Check out more about Party Rentals here or look at a brief listing of party event goods below.
- Cakes and Fountains
- Candelbra Center
- Effects and Lighting
- Food Dispensing and Preperation
- Fun and Games
- Tables, Linens and Centerpieces
- Weddings and Special Events
3. Portable Storage and Restroom Rentals
From construction site port-a-johns to high-end portable restrooms with air-condition, heat and stereo, Boone Rent-All has the portable option for every gathering, event or site. Check out all of these options here.
Also, Boone Rent-All rents out 20-by-8-foot storage containers. Boone Rent-All will deliver the containers onsite and pick them up after you are done utilizing the container. John said these containers are perfect for a construction site to prevent theft and weather damage or a business that has a temporary excess of inventory.
4. Outdoor Equipment Sales
While Avery Rent-All is a full-line Stihl dealer, Boone Rent-All is a full-line Husqvarna dealer, which offers outdoor power products such as mowers, tractors, chainsaws, trimmers and more. Some of the stores also sell Hilti equipment and supplies for the construction trade.
As its mission statement reads: “At Boone Rent-All our mission is to help people solve problems, accomplish goals and fulfill dreams by providing the best equipment and service while reflecting the values taught by Christ.”
A Family Business with Long-Term Employees
Today, Leslie and John operate Boone Rent-All, taking over the corporation in late 1990. While both have worked for the family business since they were kids (just as their kids have done), they pursued other careers before coming back to take over the family business, which likely would have been sold if John and Leslie hadn’t returned. John was a pilot in the Air Force for several years and Leslie worked as teacher’s assistant in Blowing Rock School.
While you can tell they dearly loved those jobs when talking with them, you can also tell they have no regrets.
As Leslie said, “Blood is thicker than water.”
John added, “I am where I am supposed to be. We’ve been blessed so much more than we deserve.”
Both Leslie and John have two kids, some of whom may take over the business – if it’s meant to be. It’s been discussed that Richard, the oldest of John’s, and Holly, the oldest of Leslie’s, might take over the reins in the future. That would make it a third-generation business, which is quite rare.
“Richard’s and Holly’s aspirations may change and that’s fine. We don’t look at it as a failure if we sell the business,” John said. “But it would be really cool if God does choose [for it to become a third-generation business].”
And Leslie added, “We’ve tried really hard not to put pressure on our children. If they have other goals in life, we encourage them to do that, but if this is where the Lord leaves them…”
Perhaps one of the more remarkable aspects of the company is the tenure of its employees. John mentioned that Boone Rent-All has three employees that have worked for the company for more than 30 years and that the average term of employment is 14 years.
“We’ve just had great people,” John said.
John and Leslie then proceeded to rattle off the names of all the full-time employees:
- Holly, Doug, Kim, Mike, Ryan, Cliff, Eric, Frank, Jonathan, David, Keith, Missy, Jeremy
- Jim, Alan, Steve, Ken, Scott, Rick, Nicky
- Chuck, Amy, Bryan, Billy, Bobby, Kevin
The employees, John said, are one of the three reasons that the company has been successful over the past decades. The other two, according to John as Leslie nodded her head, are the Lord’s blessing and “mom and dad worked really, really hard to build a base and make it work.”
Boone Rent-All, which can be reached at 828-264-5000, is located at 1818 N.C. 105 Bypass in Boone. Avery Rent-All, which can be reached at 828-898-6302, is located at 1829 Tynecastle Highway. For more information on all locations, click here.