Tents for rent (and more): GJ’s Rentals grows with the times

TRAVERSE CITY – In 1972, Gary John decided on a hunch to launch a rental business for events since there were none in the Traverse City area at the time. He started with 200 tables and chairs and, by the end of that first summer, had to order another 200. GJ's Rentals was born.

The company has grown steadily since. Son Garrick John, who grew up in the business, is now overseeing the family business.

"In 1990 we began adding tents, dance floors, staging, china, flatware, glassware and even linens and skirting for weddings and larger events," he says.

The company slowed down some in 2008-2009 when the economy deflated, but has seen an increase every year since then.

"Despite what happens, people still get married, still have graduation parties and family reunions, and we feel lucky to be a large part of making those memorable events happen."

GJ's Rentals has done its own moving around the TC area, from Holiday Road where they started to their first large warehouse on Silver Lake Road to a larger facility on 15th Street. In the fall of 2008 it landed a permanent location in Grawn just off U.S. 31 in a 15,000 square-foot warehouse.

"Traverse City and the surrounding area has become a wedding destination for brides from all over, so we wanted a convenient location," John says.

The company has broadened its reach to customers as far south as Ludington and as far north as Petoskey and even to the U.P., including the 1-500 snowmobile race. But since they deliver everything, they try to suggest other rental companies that are closer when an inquiry comes from far away.

"We have done some downstate, but we try to recommend someone local, especially if the need is in the summer when we are full with events in this area already."

Oddest rental request? They've set tents over houses under construction, and twice over two swimming pools. Their largest tents are huge – 30 foot by 60 foot – and John admits the work can be grueling.

"It requires a lot of physical labor – swinging a sledge hammer to drive stakes into pavement. At times we work 18-20 hour days in the summer."

They're gearing up for this summer season by purchasing 900 new white padded chairs and new cocktail tables. They continually rotate stock by selling used items and purchasing new products. If someone is planning a summer event and needs their services, it's advised they contact the company at least six to eight months ahead of time. Find out more at www.gjsrentals.com.