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Member profile: Party Rental Ltd. celebrates its golden anniversary

By Brock Huffstutler

January 10, 2023

Party Rental Ltd. truck in Boston, Mass.Launched in 1972 by founders Michael and Sunny Halperin, Party Rental Ltd., Teterboro, N.J., marked its 50th anniversary in 2022.

The company started out as Jersey Party Rental in Englewood, N.J., operating out of a six-car garage behind a local liquor store with an initial inventory of just 50 tables, 100 chairs, one style of china, a small amount of glassware and one delivery van. Rapid growth placed the company into a 10,000-sq.-ft. facility in just over a year.

“The couple took a small garage-based company to one of the leading event rental companies in the country,” says Alan Gottlich, Party Rental Ltd.’s executive vice president. “They started by focusing their business in New York, and then business organically grew as they brought in specialty products: cater-driven products that satisfied a large customer base. Thirty years ago, the business expanded to D.C., 20 years ago to Philadelphia and just about five years ago to the Boston area.”

A measured, steady approach to growth worked out well for the Halperins, ensuring they didn’t take on too much at once as their company expanded. “I wouldn’t call it explosive growth. It was slow, not super-aggressive, making sure they can handle each step and giving plenty of time to digest each step. With the exception of a couple of recessions and then, of course, COVID, we have grown every year by double digits consistently as opposed to any one giant leap,” Gottlich says.

The company added tenting to its services by 1976 and table linens in 1979. In 1980, the company exited the tenting business when it expanded into New York, where the Party Rental Ltd. name and its well-known pink hippo brand was born.

“Michael was always an entrepreneurial thinking kind of guy. He felt the name Jersey Party Rental on the side of a truck just does nothing. We needed a logo that stands out. At the same time, we dropped the name ‘Jersey’ because we wanted to focus beyond just New Jersey,” Gottlich says of the company’s name change.

As Party Rental Ltd. refined its name and product focus over the years, one thing that remained unchanged from the start was its identification as a family-owned entity that prioritized both employees and customers equally.

“From a leadership and culture point of view, [the founders had] a very employee-first and customer-first mentality from the beginning,” Gottlich says. “This company prides itself on the family-minded business culture. Employees are first in mind at all times, and you’ve got to have a customer-first mentality to be in the business of service for a period of 50-plus years. Many of our largest customers have been loyal and dedicated to us throughout that period.”

Party Rental Ltd.'s Philadelphia, Pa., design studio

Party Rental Ltd.’s Philadelphia, Pa., design studio

“We also have never been invested from the outside. We’ve never brought in outside capital; there has never been an M&A [mergers and acquisitions]-type transaction in growing the business. It’s all been organically grown, boots to the ground and developed as a family operation,” Gottlich says.

Being an early adopter of technology and continuing to innovate also has helped Party Rental Ltd. maintain an edge in the industry.

“We really embraced technology in order to scale the business,” Gottlich says. “Gary [Halperin], the president of the company and the son of Michael and Sunny, is a technology guy. He joined the company after being in technology for about a decade, so he brought to the table a heavy focus on technology. Prior to that it was just a lot of paper and inefficient processes. We developed in house our entire sales, inventory and reservation system. It was developed 25 to 30 years ago and has been continually upgraded since.”

To illustrate Party Rental Ltd.’s technological innovations, Gottlich describes the company’s online ordering system, which he says is the only website that is fully customer self-service driven in the event rental industry.

“Rental orders can be fully placed online, giving our customers a more convenient way to plan events at their convenience, 24/7,” he says. “Seventy percent of our orders coming into our system today are completely self-serve by customers. That’s unheard of in the party rental industry. Our customers get tremendous communication from us at every stage of the process in terms of advising them when the truck leaves, where the truck is and where they can access it. If you’re in another industry that is normal. If you’re in the party rental industry, that’s not so normal. That’s the type of thing we’re doing,” he says.

Gottlich also describes Party Rental Ltd.’s internally-developed driver/delivery algorithms as a unique, high-tech solution for operational efficiencies. “The algorithms allocate truck drivers and helpers, based on skill level and history, to different delivery locations and to different routes. We probably send out about 60 to 70 routes every day in the busy season. That means you’ve got 60 drivers and 120 helpers that need to be dispatched within the period of an hour. That’s a lot of work, and we developed kiosk systems so that those drivers punch into a kiosk that prints and advises them of their route. That’s an example of a process that previously was manual, fraught with issues such as favoritism on routes and so forth, that we have completely automated and made more efficient,” he says.

Guests celebrate Party Rental Ltd.'s 50th anniversary at the company's New York design studio

Guests celebrate Party Rental Ltd.’s 50th anniversary at the company’s New York design studio

Today, Party Rental Ltd. is headquartered in Teterboro in a 300,000-sq.-ft. warehouse with more than 3 million inventory items, 750 employees and a large fleet of trucks with the pink hippo logo that service more than 55,000 events each year — a mix of 30 percent corporate, 30 percent not-for-profit fundraisers and a 40 percent blend of social and other special events. Some of the notable events the company services include the Costume Institute Gala (also known as The Met [Metropolitan Museum of Art] Gala), US Open tennis and the Robin Hood Foundation Gala to fight poverty in New York.

The company also has warehouses in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Boston, and the Hamptons. “We also have six inner city showrooms that we call ‘design studios,’” Gottlich says. “In our world, a caterer, a planner or a decorator/designer will come in with a client who’s having a wedding, and they will design that wedding within the showroom. We call it a design studio as a result of using it in that capacity; it’s a cooler name than ‘showroom.’”

During the summer of 2022, Party Rental Ltd. hosted a series of open house events at its design studios where guests celebrated the organization’s milestone 50th anniversary while wearing their best pink attire. The festivities were all about acknowledging the organization’s rich history while looking ahead with excitement to the future.

“The last 50 years have been all about relationships and teamwork,” Gottlich says. “Our customers know they can leverage our team’s vast industry experience, design expertise and venue knowledge when they work with us to plan events of all types. What’s important to us is that we’re providing quality rental products and unbeatable service, on time, every time. If it’s a visit to one of our design studios, a virtual appointment or an order placed online, our goal is to make planning an event as easy as possible. From start to finish, we have the people, the relationships and the online tools to support our customers every step of the way. With a focus on continuous improvement, we hope to streamline the online ordering process and provide even more tools to improve our customers’ experience. The sky’s the limit.”

The tale of the pink hippo

Party Rental Ltd., headquartered in Teterboro, N.J., but also maintaining locations in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Boston, and the Hamptons, is well-known for its cute and recognizable pink Party Rental Ltd.'s Pink Hippo evolutionhippo logo. What is the origin of the image? Chalk it up to a simple blunder by the good people at Yellow Pages.

“That’s actually a funny story,” says Alan Gottlich, Party Rental Ltd.’s executive vice president. “Our founder, Michael Halperin, developed with Yellow Pages a camel with tables and chairs and everything on the back of the camel, signifying the carrying of the things we do for a living. It was going be a big camel on the side of a truck — memorable, noticeable and, in his mind, something that would catch on. Unfortunately, and this goes back probably 40 years ago before e-mail and technology, Yellow Pages lost the image of the camel.”

As crunch time arrived for the logo-less Party Rental Ltd. to get its advertisement into the then all-important Yellow Pages, a Plan B was triggered — one that turned out to have a lasting impact.

“Yellow Pages said to Michael, ‘We have to go to print. We cannot redevelop [the camel logo]; we don’t have time. But we have a stock hippo that we could use.’ And that’s how the hippo was developed. It was a mistake,” Gottlich says.

While it is known how the Party Rental Ltd. hippo was born, its signature color remains an unsolved mystery.

“How it got pink, we’re not certain,” Gottlich says. “But 25 years ago, when Gary [Halperin, current president of Party Rental Ltd.] and I got involved, we took the pink, and we used that branding and really developed it by identifying our products with pink and using pink for the color of our containers. This way, on site, we could see everything and it’s really identifiable as pink. We also, over the years, upgraded and changed the look of the hippo, giving it a facelift and obviously using it in our marketing campaigns because it’s fun.”