A family legacy 44 years in the making has no plans for stopping
By Connie Lannan
A visit to a rental operation to get a water pump for a home project served as the impetus for David and Shirley Landua to start U-Rent-It-Sales & Service in Terrell, Texas, in 1979. Forty-four years later, the business boasts three locations, including a recent expansion of its home store. With the third generation of Landuas now involved in the operation, the business has become a valued and trusted resource for its customers.
Mark Landua, who serves as general manager, handling the day-to-day operations of the business, distinctly remembers how his father decided rental could become a family business.
“My father was doing construction at our house and needed to rent a water pump. He ended up going to a rental store not far from our house. He saw all that was there and what they were doing and decided this was what he wanted to do,” Mark says.
It started as a one-person operation with David running the store in Terrell. Within the next year, Shirley came into the business and Mark later came on board.
Everything was coming together. The company was growing, serving both its equipment and event rental customers. Soon it was time to expand. The Landuas opened a second location in Rockwall, Texas, in 1990.
But then tragedy hit. In 1991 fire destroyed the Terrell store. Not deterred, the family, which had been renting the Terrell location, built a new facility on land they had previously purchased in another part of town. During the construction, they never stopped serving their customers. By 2014, they opened a third location in Gun Barrel City, Texas. It now takes 48 employees and four or five additional part-time helpers in the summer to run the three locations.
Last year, they added to their Terrell location. “We bring everything to our Terrell location that needs major repair. It is our main hub and has most of our mechanics. We had outgrown the building at this location. We are sitting on 30 acres, so we had plenty of room to expand,” Mark says. “We added a 9,000-sq.-ft. shop and a 6,000-sq.-ft. warehouse to store some of our party items in. We had been planning this for three years. Taking this step has expanded our yard so much that it is unbelievable. We spent almost three-quarters of a million dollars just on concrete around the buildings, but it is so nice to have instead of walking on dirt.”
Being a family-owned-and-operated independent rental operation has its distinct advantages, Mark says. “We don’t have to go through so many channels to make a decision. It can be made in an instant. That means a whole lot right there. For our customers, it also means that we carry more inventory than a regular rental store does. We also carry a lot of oddball stuff that other rental stores don’t have. We receive calls from people in Dallas and surrounding areas who can’t find that unique item they are looking for. They know we probably have it.”
Speaking of inventory, Mark says theirs runs the gamut because they serve so many different customers — general contractors, homeowners and caterers. “Probably 50 percent of our business is ranchers and homeowners,” he says.
On the equipment side, it goes from lawnmowers, trenchers and dozers to 85-ft. boom lifts, excavators up to 30,000 lb. and bulldozers up to 130 horsepower. “We carry a lot of heavy earthmoving equipment,” he says.
On the event side, the business carries all the traditional items — tables, chairs, dishware, tents, linens and staging — as well as portable, deluxe restrooms, bounce houses and concession equipment.
“We offer both party and equipment inventory at all three of our locations. We have dedicated staff for both areas,” Mark says, adding that this is necessary to best serve the diverse clientele those two areas cater to.
Mark always thought he would open more stores, “but three is a handful. I have the inventory for more stores, but I just don’t have enough people,” he says.
Finding qualified labor is just one challenge Mark and his family have had to face. Like other rental operations around the country, supply chain issues also have made life more difficult.
“Trying to order equipment for next year is kind of a challenge. For the past two years we have been ordering ahead. You need to figure out what you want next year and order it now. We are always thinking ahead — out of the box. Hopefully, we have ordered correctly so that will be what we need when it finally arrives,” he says.
Theft also has been an issue. He recently had a mini excavator stolen from a job site. “This one had only 11 hours on it and GPS. The thieves found the GPS and removed it. This is the third time that I have had equipment stolen in this way. I also had someone come in with a fake ID. We were able to recover that equipment three weeks later,” he says.
While those are the difficult parts of running a rental operation, Mark says there are so many positives.
“I always knew this was what I wanted to do. It is something different every day. That is what I like about it — always a new challenge and always helping people get a job done and helping them accomplish their goals,” he says.
A confessed “hands-on type of person,” Mark says, “I would rather be outside in the shop helping the guys or waiting on someone instead of being behind the desk, but I also do the work that has to be done paper-wise,” he says with a laugh.
David and Shirley are still involved in the business, coming in a few times a week, “but they are pretty much retired,” Mark says.
The family torch is being passed on. Besides Mark, his two sons, Kyle and Blake, are now actively involved in the business. “Kyle is branch manager at the Terrell store and Blake helps with the party goods at all three stores. He is a real people person and loves party,” Mark says.
Looking back, Mark is proud of his family’s legacy and the impact their business has had on the communities they serve. “We do so much with the Chamber in Terrell and all the communities around us. All our customers rely on us and we rely on them,” he says.
For Mark, this business “has been my life. I like what I do. I enjoy meeting different people, helping them, working on the equipment and learning the new equipment,” he says. “I would like to stay active in the business for at least another eight more years. Hopefully after that my kids can take it over and take the business to the next level.”
It’s all part of extending his family’s legacy that includes honoring their commitment to be there for their customers when needed.
ARA has always been a vital resource for this Texas rental operation
Mark Landua, general manager of U-Rent-It Sales & Service, with locations in Terrell, Rockwall and Gun Barrel City, Texas, really can’t remember a time when the American Rental Association (ARA) wasn’t part of his family’s business.
“We have always been involved in ARA,” he says. “I remember we were members of the Dallas County Rental Association, our local association. The ARA Show™ was in Dallas. My dad was called and asked if we would help out with tours of Dallas rental stores. My dad closed down our store and, at the young age of 19, I was a tour guide on one of the buses,” he remembers.
Landua served as a member of the Dallas County Rental Association from 1996-1997. He then became a member of ARA’s Next Generation of Rental Owners in 1997. Beginning in 2006, he joined the board of the Texas Rental Association (TRA), serving as president from 2012-2013.
Being involved in this way always has been important to Landua because “you learn so much from different people and meet a lot of people who end up being good friends. It is very important that we joined ARA. I would say being members really matured us before we were aware that we were mature. It has helped in so many different ways. It is hard to say all the ways it has helped us,” he says.