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Not bolted down? It's available for rent at Channahon General Rental

By Steve Campbell

August 23, 2023

John Reynolds and Becky Lennon

The phone rings on a quiet weekday afternoon at Channahon General Rental in Channahon, Ill. John Reynolds, general manager and American Rental Association (ARA) of Illinois board member, picks it up to give a potential customer pricing and details about renting a piece of equipment. In the back of the building, a handful of employees clean chairs for an upcoming event. It’s not a lot of hustle and bustle, but it’s all about getting the job done for the small community.

That’s how it’s been since 1997 when Becky Lennon and her late husband opened Channahon General Rental, which sits just a handful of miles through cornfields from the southwest Chicago suburbs. Lennon’s husband passed away in 2007 and she needed more assistance. She hired Reynolds and Dennis Gossen to be the managers. The three of them have been leading the way for the last 16 years.

“It’s a very small town out here. It’s gotten bigger the more we’ve been out here, but it’s a very small town. We have an awesome clientele and it’s definitely a blue-collar clientele,” Reynolds says.

As the name implies, whether it’s equipment or event rental, it can be found at Channahon General Rental. The equipment side led the way with small- and medium-sized rentals for more than a decade after the company was founded. Since 2008, the company has gradually moved toward event rental as a majority of their business.

“We still have Bobcats, excavators, walk-behind [Toro] Dingos, our small lawn and garden equipment, sod cutters, aerators, trenchers, so on and so forth. Party just kind of took over a bigger piece of the company, that’s all. We’d love for equipment to pick up and be as big as party is, but party has definitely taken over a majority of it,” Reynolds says.

In an area dominated by rural towns, this larger focus on event rental provides major opportunities for the company to go big on events. As Reynolds says, larger properties and open spaces lead to “big venues and big tents. You can turn a back yard into a wedding venue pretty easily and we have the right stuff to do it.”

Channahon General Rental is just a quick trip down the highway from the growing Chicago suburbs, but the company has remained with just a single location in their small town which has a population of around 13,000 people. Reynolds says they do serve customers in the larger suburban cities such as Joliet and Orland Park, but the small-town feel has been key for the business for more than 25 years.

“I like to say Becky is doing something right. She started this business in 1997 and here we are in 2023, and we’re still going strong. Our customers need us and we’re happy to be here for them,” he says. “We’re just here to serve our community. The customers come in that we’ve been dealing with for years and helping them get their projects done that they need to get done. We’re doing what we set out to do, just helping out the community.”

The company’s involvement in the ARA of Illinois has been a part of their ongoing success. Lennon served on the state board with her term ending in 2019. Around that time, ARA of Illinois was looking for a member of ARA’s Young Professional Network (YPN) to join the board. That’s where Reynolds, a YPN member, jumped at the opportunity to continue the tradition of having the company represented on the state board. It also was an opportunity to grow his own career, which began as a tent cleaner at 17 years old and now has advanced to general manager.

“We both agree it’s equally important to be a part of ARA of Illinois and it’s a career choice that I want to be involved in as much as I can,” Reynolds says. “It’s a lot of fun and you learn a lot of information. You hear a lot of ideas. For me, it’s 100 percent education and networking. This is an industry I plan on being involved in for my career, and I want to learn and take advantage of any opportunity I can as well as networking.”

Reynolds also is active in YPN where he has attended the reception at The ARA Show™ and the annual conferences. Between the connections he has made as a YPN member, plus education sessions and events attended by Reynolds and others at The ARA Show and ARA of Illinois, it has provided new ideas to keep Channahon General Rental moving in the right direction.

“I’ve gone to 100 different education topics, town halls and just talking to different people. Everyone in this industry has the same issues. Everyone has the same problems and same hurdles that they have to deal with, and it’s nice being able to talk to other people in the industry to figure out what ways they approach those obstacles and just seeing different ideas,” Reynolds says.

In an era of mergers and acquisitions in the equipment and event rental industry, Channahon General Rental stays true to what they have been and what they continue to be: a small-town rental store here to help their customers and community.

“Being that we only have one location, we can really concentrate and fine tune where we need to and what we want to and not worry about other locations,” Reynolds says. “Everybody here is part of a family in a sense. We all look out for each other. We all help each other out when we can. It’s one of the best parts of being in a small company.”

And when the phone rings with a customer needing to get a job done or plan an event, they are here to help. According to Reynolds, “if it’s not bolted down, we’ll rent it to you.”