By Lauren Sable Freiman | Photo by Thomas Skernivitz
Beginning at 2:30 a.m., a crew from Party Safari was braving the chill of the early morning to deliver and set up 185 tables along the route. They also set up 23 tents, including a medical tent outfitted with rollaway beds and tables. Then, the crew dropped off several generators at the finish line, which the event’s sound and light companies relied upon in their efforts to celebrate each runner as they completed the race. And, as runners and walkers were relaxing and soaking in their bathtubs following the race, Party Safari’s crew was back on the streets, collecting everything they had set up just hours earlier.
“We’ve done this event for years,” says Molly Kelley, who co-owns Party Safari with her husband, Howard. “It is such a demanding event for our crew. But if you’re going to do an event like this, you have to be prepared to do what needs to be done, and do it well.”
Party Safari has been doing it well since 1967, when Kelley’s father-in-law, Paul, plopped down $20,000 to purchase a franchise of A to Z. The money, which he borrowed from family members, bought him the ability to rent tools, home health care equipment, and party supplies. Just a couple years later, when the A to Z franchisor went bankrupt, Paul Kelley changed the name to ABC Rental and continued in the rental business until his retirement in 1984, on his 62nd birthday. He passed away in 2009, leaving the business in the hands of Molly and Howard.
“ABC Rental was very generic sounding to us,” Kelley says. “It went back to the old days, when the whole thing was about getting near the front of the line in the telephone book. What ended up happening was that people were so confused, they would call you and were meaning to call someone else, or vice versa, and they could not remember where they got their stuff from year to year. A lot of companies started with A.”
So, as ABC Rentals’ space became tight and the Kelleys began to recognize a need for a showroom that devoted more space to their event rental business, they located a new, 20,000 square foot building nearby. What followed, Kelley says, was three years of “planning, negotiating, brainstorming and praying.”
In January 2013, the Kelleys opened the doors to their 3,330-square-foot event rental showroom and officially began operating the event rental side of their business as Party Safari. Their tool rental business continues to operate as ABC Rental.
“We wanted a distinctive name that people would remember and not confuse with other companies, and we figured Party Safari was a name that if people heard, they’d remember,” Kelley says.
Though the Kelleys are still ironing out kinks following the transition, a number of long-time employees have worked hard to alleviate growing pains and keep the business fully operational throughout the move.
“We’re lucky to have a large customer base that has been with us through the whole changeover,” Kelley says. “I think we have started to attract more business, too. A lot of people just drive by and stop in because they want to know what we do here.”
Party Safari’s new website, overhauled to better represent the thousands of items available for rent, is just days away from launching. From china, flatware and linens to bounce houses, party games and grills, Party Safari provides caterers, universities, schools, municipalities, and even individuals with anything and everything they need to pull off the perfect event. Their inventory is constantly changing as they work hard to stay up to date with new trends.
Though the business has been thriving for 47 years, the future looks even brighter for Party Safari. Kelley says they may not be the largest in the industry or do the most of any one thing, but the personalized and hands-on attention they provide is hard to beat.
“We love being involved in important events and we’re flattered that we have the clientele that invites us back year after year to help them pull off these important things,” Kelley says.
For more information: partysafariohio.com