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Member profile: Mile East Productions covers the event spectrum

by Brock Huffstutler

Rick Allwright and Candice Phibbs, husband-and-wife owners of Mile East Productions

Rick Allwright and Candice Phibbs, husband-and-wife owners of Mile East Productions

Mile East Productions, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, may be relatively new to event rentals, but the business has emerged as an important player on the local live event scene and in activities that enhance the community’s economic vibrancy.

The company was launched in 2015 as a “side hustle,” says owner Rick Allwright — a logical extension of the work he was performing in his main job with the local tourism association.

“I was working to attract sporting events and conferences to our area. It quickly came to light that we need people to plan these and it fell on my shoulders. It morphed from there into doing our own things outside of the tourism association. We were planning events nonstop with the tourism association and now we have taken on that role as a contractor. Now here we are, and it just keeps growing. It’s been an interesting ride,” Allwright says.

Travel and tourism are big in Yarmouth — to the extent that they are at the center of the local economy. “We have a direct connection to the northeast U.S. — Bar Harbor, Maine — through a ferry system, which is popular. We are the largest lobster/fishing area in Canada, so a lot of people come here specifically for that. There also is a lot of history in the architecture here of the shipbuilding industry, and there are a lot of stories and folklore around rum running and the crime history,” Allwright says.

All these attractions make Yarmouth a desirable location for festivals, trade shows and weddings, and Mile East Productions has them all covered.

“We are in a fairly small market, so we wear a lot of hats,” Allwright says. “We started our business as event planners, so we own a number of events: We do our annual home show, a beer festival in a few locations annually, a wedding show, New Year’s dances and stuff like that. We are putting on a spring gala this coming spring, and up and coming we have a national curling event that we are hosting. We assist others in planning events, and we’ve gotten into wedding planning.”

A Mile East Productions tented event

A Mile East Productions tented event

Mile East Productions also dabbles in A/V and event streaming services, and even organizes walking tours highlighting local points of interest.

Rental is a newer addition to Mile East Productions’ portfolio of services. “On the rental side, it’s very much party rental-focused: tents, tables, chairs and décor. We have a dance floor as well and some limited A/V. That’s about it, so far. We are fairly new to it, but we keep adding more and more. A lot of our focus is on weddings and the wedding industry,” Allwright says.

“In all honesty, we kind of fell backwards into the rental side of things,” Allwright says, adding that he has grown to enjoy the pursuit because “you see a lot of different things, you meet a lot of different people, and you help a lot of events come together and bring people together. We [Allwright and his wife and co-owner, Candice] are both planners by nature. I always say I’m probably the worst concert goer ever because I really just want to be behind the stage working it rather than watching it. We’re both kind of that way. We would rather be behind the

Champagne wall

Champagne wall

scenes making it all happen. I think that kind of has propelled us in this direction. We want to make these things happen.”

Evolving from event planners to a fully rounded event production business that includes rentals has not been without its challenges.

“We really didn’t know what we didn’t know going into it,” Allwright says. “We were very much flying by the seat of our pants, as a business. We knew how to plan an event but not necessarily how to do it for clients. We’re definitely experiencing growing pains in terms of bringing staff on and growing the business in that way. Policies and procedures are now becoming more important, whereas before we just did what we wanted to do. Now we need to really formalize a lot of this stuff.”

At the same time, Allwright figures his business has coped quite well with being a nearly all-inclusive event resource for customers in his market. “Our customers have said we are more or less a one-stop shop,” he says. “We try to cover the full spectrum of all their planning and rentals. I will DJ every once in a while. We’ll do it all. Other than catering, we are pretty much willing to do most of it, and that is what sets us apart from competitors — not that there are many competitors. Most of them don’t do the breadth of what we do.”

As Mile East Productions continues to gain traction in its mission to meet both the event planning and rental needs of clients in the Yarmouth region, it hasn’t lost sight of its roots: to be a cheerleader for and promoter of the community.

“A lot of our events started, and continue to this day, with cases where we partnered with a charitable organization to make it happen,” Allwright says. “Like for our home show, we partner with our local Rotary Club, and they are basically our staff for the event days. They run the front desk, they do all the cleanup, they manage the stage and all that. We have morphed that into other events as well with different groups. Most recently, we did Ribfest up here with the Rotary Club. It’s their event, but we support them and make it happen through our experience. We basically brought different groups together and created a giant fundraising event. We really look to give back as much as we can and create as much impact in the community as we possibly can, too.”