Special Events
SHOWTIME FOR A NEW SHOWROOM

SHOWTIME FOR A NEW SHOWROOM

LA BELLA Party Rental Co. announced the April 11 grand opening of its new Napa, Calif., location with invitations that declared: “We've Arrived.” And that arrival came in a stylish package — new digs that La Bella showed off at its soiree while showing guests a good time.

Owner Betsy Stone began her party rental career with South San Francisco-based Sisters Party Rental. She sold the business in August 2003 but returned to party rental in February 2004 with La Bella, first located in Novato, Calif. Servicing the area north of San Francisco, including the renowned Napa Valley “wine country,” La Bella has provided rentals for such big-name functions as Auction Napa Valley, where La Bella's white laminate tables and apple-green chairs created a retro mod feel in one tent at this year's event, as well as Christina Aguilera's November wedding, which had an icy wonderland motif.

La Bella quickly outgrew its 12,000-square-foot Novato warehouse, prompting a move. While its St. Helena, Calif.-based design studio stays put, La Bella's new Napa showroom provides more space in a location central to all North Bay counties.

IN WITH THE NEW

According to La Bella spokesperson Susan Lassalette, the company needed a new space because management wanted to have warehouse, offices and showroom “together under one roof.” Lassalette says, “Napa was the perfect location for the majority of our clients, and the warehouse has over 50,000 square feet of space — which is completely filled, by the way.” Besides the spacious office and showroom areas, the new space — a one-time wine warehouse — boasts a more efficient loading area with four loading docks and two loading bays.

Management also wanted to display inventory “with the feel of a home furnishing shop” and needed a space that was, according to Lassalette, “beautiful but in a classic, understated manner,” one that could showcase both cutting-edge and traditional looks.

SHOWROOM CHIC

As for what fills that showroom, La Bella “is based on the premise that {our inventory} does not have to look like rentals — and it doesn't,” Lassalette says. Still, she notes, “‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ is clearly true in this case. To hit what is hot each season is a full-time job, but one that requires an open mind.”

And while customers can view La Bella's goods online, sometimes there's no substitute for viewing them in person. Linen in particular benefits from a showroom setting, Lassalette says. While all La Bella's linen colors are displayed on the company's Web site, “It makes all the difference in the world to be able to feel a fabric,” she says. Another product that gets a boost from display is specialty napkins. According to Lassalette, “We have a room with nothing but our specialty napkins and overlays hanging on beautiful wrought-iron rods filling the entire room.”

PARTY ON

Since “people don't move too often in the rental business,” Lassalette notes, management felt a celebration was in order. “We wanted to show our clients where our merchandise was coming from,” she adds, “and we wanted them to see exactly what we're about.”

La Bella celebrated with a huge shindig at the Napa operation that allowed guests to view the new digs and the inventory. A storm with rain, lightning and thunder didn't deter more than 500 people from showing up, including event planners, designers, wineries, caterers, floral designers, tent companies and lighting designers.

“People had free rein in the warehouse,” Lassalette explains, “so they could see how it worked — the big stainless tables that everybody polishes silver on, and we hand-dry all our crystal with linen napkins. So they get the whole idea of what it's really like.”

La Bella erected five tents in different styles: one with a classic look in soft peach and pale sunflower gold, another sleek and modern, and a third with pillows scattered about the floor. To fuel the festive mood, the company set up a 30-foot bar and a disco area with an iridescent dance floor and La Bella's logo in the middle. Ottomans in sherbet colors of citrus, Granny Smith-apple green and hot pink provided lounging options, and go-go girls danced all night in cages three feet off the ground topped with orange feather umbrellas. With the visual elements taken care of, St. Helena-based Rising Sun Catering provided tasty tidbits, both passed and at stations, such as polenta fries with a Point Reyes blue cheese fonduta — an Italian fondue — and roasted duck, ginger and field rhubarb empanadas.

RENTALS REVEALED

Visitors to La Bella consist of 75 percent event professionals and the rest members of the public, and both react similarly to the Napa showroom. According to Lassalette, they are typically surprised by how big the showroom is and how much merchandise is displayed, and they “generally ask us which of the items we rent because most of them do not look like rentals.”

La Bella's new showroom also boasts new wood floors and custom-made shelves. Track and spot lighting give goods the appropriate glow, and silk flower arrangements spruce up the setting, occasionally replaced by real flowers for special occasions. La Bella's prop room adds richness to the various vignettes. According to Lassalette, “We rearrange all the time — we change out the showroom every month.”

IT TAKES A TEAM

Lassalette notes, “It takes more than the owner's vision of what is hot to keep in front of the trends. The key is to listen to others' suggestions that may be different when choosing new inventory.” She commends the team that makes La Bella function efficiently, calling them the most important elements to success in the event business. “Every person at La Bella has a job that is just as critical to our success as the next, from sales to the dishwashers to the packers and, of course, our fabulous drivers,” she says. “We all work together and respect each person's contribution because we know our success depends on it.”


La Bella Party Rental Co. 745 Skyway Court, Napa, CA 94558; 707/253-2332; www.labellapartyrental.com

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