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Butler Rents — helping Coloradans celebrate for the past 54 years

By Connie Lannan

March 14, 2024

Ann Bown, left, and Barb Bown Wyatt wait on a customer at the counter kiosk.

Ann Bown, left, and Barb Bown Wyatt wait on a customer at the counter kiosk.

Since 1970, the Bown family and Butler Rents have been synonymous with creating beautiful events for customers throughout Denver and the entire state of Colorado. Now run by the second-generation siblings — Barb Bown Wyatt, Ann Bown and Christopher Bown — the business has stayed true to the standards set by their parents of always providing the highest-quality products with exceptional customer service.

But then that’s just the Butler Rents way where family is paramount. Family is not just the Bowns who run the operation. That extends to everyone — employees and customers.

“Being part of the family is how we have always been and how we have treated our employees. We don’t call them employees, we call them team members,” Bown Wyatt says.

That focus has translated into personalized service from the initial concept to the final execution of an event. It also has garnered long-term and loyal customers as well as employees.

Sales background and rental connections laid the groundwork

Butler Rents began because Bernie Bown, the matriarch of the family, didn’t want her husband, Jack, to go out on the road for his job.

“My father worked for a medical supply company. They were transitioning him and wanted him to go out on the road as a salesperson. My mom said, ‘No, you have three young kids. You are not going out as a salesperson.’ At the time, my uncle, who was a caterer, said a rental company was coming up for sale. He told my parents that if they bought it, he would be their biggest customer. My uncle loaned them $10,000 and my parents bought the rental business. I remember it well. They had one truck, one driver, one salesperson and then my mom and dad,” Bown Wyatt says, adding that her parents paid her uncle back the next year.

Headquarters of Butler Rents, Glendale, Colo.

Headquarters of Butler Rents, Glendale, Colo.

Her parents knew that to run a successful operation they had to learn the business. That is where connecting with other rental operators was key.

“My father was a great salesperson. He also was new to the business and knew there was value in connecting with other rental operators who had a lot more experience in the rental business than he did. That is how he learned about the American Rental Association (ARA),” she says.

Those connections with others and with ARA have been a constant for Butler Rents over the years. On the ARA front, Bown Wyatt has been very involved at both the state and national levels. For instance, she had been on the ARA of Colorado board beginning in 1996, closing her service as state chapter president from 2014-2017. She served on ARA’s Events & Tents Task Force from 2014-2016, the Government Affairs Committee from 2016-2017, served as ARA Region Seven director from 2018-2021 and was a member of the Event Rental Advocacy Work Group from 2022-2023. For her involvement and dedication, she received the ARA Region Seven Person of the Year Award in 2015. She also received the President’s Image Award in 2016.

Why stay involved in that way? “There is great mentorship in ARA. You have people you can ask questions of. Sharing knowledge is so gratifying. What you might not think of as knowledge someone else will think it is. ARA offers the ability to share ideas and questions with others in a free space,” Bown Wyatt says.

Advocacy of the industry is another reason. “Being on the Government Affairs Committee and participating in the National Legislative Caucus was an eye-opening experience. I had never been to Washington, D.C. ARA is advocating for us. That is so important,” she says.

Growth impacts footprint, technology improves efficiencies

The company grew, serving a more diverse clientele. “Today our operation handles about 60 percent business clients — caterers, event planners, corporations and nonprofits. We also have a strong homeowner and walk-in market. We do a lot of backyard parties and graduations,” Bown Wyatt says.

A section of the showroom

A section of the showroom

To handle the growth, the family constructed a brand-new building to spec in 1979. “Dad had it built with prepressed concrete. The original square footage was 20,000-plus ft. Then we made an addition to the back and the second floor. Today the building is more than 42,000 sq. ft.,” Bown Wyatt says.

But that wasn’t enough. “We ended up buying another building that was around the corner, which is another 42,000 sq. ft. We call it the Neo Building because it was a nightclub called Neo’s. That is where we have our trucks parked, where our tent washing and chair washing equipment are located as well as where we store our additional Chiavari chairs, tables and other seasonal items. We also have another 20,000-sq.-ft. warehouse that holds all our tenting,” she says.

This expansion required Butler Rents to go digital.  “Years ago we had to look through files for orders. Now everything is on the computer. If a client has rented from us before, we can pull their file and see exactly what was ordered, etc., and see if they want to do something similar this time. It is so much easier than having to recreate the wheel. That has increased our productivity because you can look up everything instantaneously,” she says.

Recently, the company implemented a sign and rent option, “which has allowed us to cut down on our paper usage. We use two-thirds less paper than what we used in the past,” she says. Plus, the company uses Alert Rental Software system’s dispatch option, which helps with productivity, has a strong website and utilizes social media “as everyone is placing orders on their phone.”

Challenges are part of business

Like other rental operations, Butler Rents has dealt with its share of challenges. The coronavirus pandemic hit hard, forcing the company to be closed for a couple of months.

“We were able to bring in a few team members to have them help with laundry and cleaning. We were fortunate that we had some restaurants who wanted tenting and heating,” she says, adding that the company has since fully rebounded.

But the pandemic left lingering issues. Finding labor has been particularly challenging.

Butler Rents logo“Event rental is hard labor,” Bown Wyatt says. “Hiring is still difficult. With the change in labor availability, we have had to re-evaluate our whole setup option. We didn’t have enough people to do the delivery and setup, especially during graduation time. People still wanted things set up. We raised our rates and people paid it, but the question was, ‘Are we pushing our staff to get these all done?’ We are setting up staging and wheelchair ramps, but we are trying to forego the setup of tables and chairs. My dad always said that not every piece of business is good business. With the change of labor, we have had to rethink what we can offer,” Bown Wyatt says.

Client expectations have exacerbated the labor issues. “Some people think you can get things the next day. They call today and want to get it tomorrow. The whole lead time has gotten so much shorter. That is why we tell our clients to go on our website and put together a ‘wish list’ for pricing options for budgeting,” she says.

Love of rental, teamwork make it all worthwhile

“I am a people-person. I like the one-on-one of helping someone with their event. I like how there are so many changing trends in the industry. There is real knowledge we can impart to our clients,” Bown Wyatt says, adding that this a trait of her entire team.

That makes a difference to clients. “It’s our people who make our business stand out and what our clients appreciate,” she says. “We started doing client questionnaires. Everyone has responded that our team members are so helpful, so nice and great. You can’t have a great staff and not want to come to work. Everyone wants to be here and help our clients. It comes across.”

It’s all part of the Butler Rents way of doing business — having a friendly, family environment backed up with quality inventory and the right technology to meet the needs of clients. It is what has made Butler Rents a success for all these years and will lead it forward no matter what the future holds.