Celebrating 75 years in business
by Brock Huffstutler
A feature published in the April 1994 issue of Rental Management was titled “It’s no fish tail that Vermont member combines four businesses in one,” and told the story of White River Junction, Vt.-based Blood’s Seafood and Catering.
The story described the founding of the business in 1947 by Denny Blood, a meatcutter by trade who transitioned into seafood sales and catering, and the eventual continuation of those services — plus the addition of a seafood restaurant and event rentals — by Denny’s son, Michael, who ran the business with his wife, Donna.
Today, 75 years after the launch of Denny’s enterprise and 28 years since the publication of that profile story, the company is still going strong, having streamlined its offerings to meet the demands of those in its market in 2022 and producing some event rental industry leaders along the way.
Discussing the evolution of the company since the mid-1990s, current president Brendon Blood — Michael and Donna’s son — says one of the biggest differences has been the jettisoning of the retail fish market and seafood restaurant divisions.
“We dropped the restaurant part in 1997 because it was just so hard to staff year-round,” Brendon says. “We also realized that we really weren’t passionate about it, but it was kind of sad because to this day we still have people that walk in the front door and can’t believe that we don’t have a restaurant.”
Then, in 2010, the Bloods shut down the retail seafood market.
“My dad was getting close to retirement. It was always his passion to open up a seafood market because his dad had one when he was young. At the time it made sense, but it was not something that I ever really wanted to run. At one time we had huge lobster tanks that could hold 4,000 lbs. of live lobster at a time. We were the only place within 100 miles that could sell 100 lobsters for a clambake. That was our niche at the time. Then grocery stores started selling lobsters cheaper at retail than I could buy at wholesale, so you get to where you’re competing with a big company. You just can’t compete against them,” Brendon says.
By the 2010s, with services narrowed down to a concentration on event rental and catering, a name change was in order.
“My dad was smart enough to realize that having your name say exactly what you do really makes sense, and now I see it, too,” Brendon says. “I’m not a big social media or Google kind of person, but as I understand it, if your name has what you do in it, it helps with Google searches and stuff. It just makes sense to have Blood’s Catering and Party Rentals as our name, reflecting exactly what we do.”
On the rental side, Blood’s Catering and Party Rentals’ offerings have remained essentially unchanged since the 1990s: tents, tables, chairs, catering equipment, china, linens, arches, dance floors and lighting. What has changed, Brendon says, is the addition of generators to the lineup and the fact that, variety and quantity-wise, “we probably have four times the inventory — it’s incredible how much things have changed.”
In the catering arena, Blood’s still dishes up the goods for longtime coastal staples like clambakes, but these days, barbecue and other varieties of specialty hors d’oeuvres are a greater demand in the market.
“Barbecue we do a lot of, for sure,” Brendon says. “I would say that is the most popular type of food that we do, but we certainly do a lot more. Almost everything we make is from scratch. Everything that we have is our own recipe, our own creation. All of our hors d’oeuvres are handmade. We stand there and make our own sushi — you name it, we’ll do it. We cook almost everything on site. We do a lot of the prep work here, but we cook just about everything at peoples’ houses or wherever we go, so that’s kind of fun.”
The varied culinary creations that Blood’s Catering and Party Rentals offers today are influenced by Brendon’s formative years growing up in the business and his training as a professional chef. “I would say that our food has come a long way. When I got out of culinary school in 1996, we took our menu to the next level. It really changed a lot then,” he says.
When asked about the secret of the company’s success for 75 years and counting, Brendon chalks it up to “consistency, for sure, and the old saying of ‘underpromise and overdeliver.’ We do what we say we’re going to do. We don’t promise the world, but we do promise that we’ll do a great job, the food is going to be great, you’re going to love it and your guests are going to love it. The thing I tell price-conscious people who call is, ‘I’m going to guarantee you, I’m the most expensive caterer you’re going to call. But I’m going to show up when I say I am. If you have a rental question, I’m going to answer the phone on any Saturday at 4 o’clock. If you have a question or if you want to pop in — no other caterer is going to be at their desk able to talk to you about your linen sample or talk to you about food on a Saturday at 4 o’clock.’ So, it’s the extra service, I think.”
Keeping with the company’s commitment to consistency, Blood’s remains a family affair. Founders Michael and Donna are now retired, while Brendon and his wife, Sara, took over ownership in 2016. Brendon’s sister, Tanya, also is a longtime employee of the business and is the lead salesperson, and Brendon and Sara’s daughter, Katie, helps around the facility and with catering activities while she prepares to study business management at Boston College.
Today, Blood’s operates out of the same 50-ft.-by-70-ft. facility it has occupied for decades; however, an additional 16,000 sq. ft. of nearby storage space has been acquired and staffing levels stand at 14 year-round, peaking at 60 to 70 during summers.
As Blood’s Catering and Party Rentals has stepped up its catering game and its rental inventory over the last 25-plus years, so too have its principal leaders to serve in key leadership positions in the rental industry. Brendon served as American Rental Association (ARA) Region One director from 2014-2017, is a past member of the Government Affairs Committee and the ARA Event Rental Shared Interest Group. Sara also has been a member of the Government Affairs Committee and served on the Event Rental Advocacy Workgroup, and both Brendon and Sara have served on the ARA of Vermont board of directors.
Spanning three generations and 75 years, Blood’s Catering and Party Rentals hasn’t stopped evolving and is looking to the future by positioning itself for even more innovation and growth.
“We’ve hired a general manager, David Davis, and we are implementing an EOS [Entrepreneurial Operating System] through the ‘Traction’ book. That is really helping our culture,” Brendon says, adding that he hopes steps towards efficiencies like these will make life a little less hectic. “Sara and I are trying to take it a little easier than we have in the past and maybe not work quite so hard.”