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Taking a Different Path

Abbey Party Rents, Dallas Competing in the tough Dallas rental market, you've got to think of a way to stand out. So Abbey Party Rents went Hollywood. John Jakob, company president, has some background in the movie business in Los Angeles and used that experience to build a prop business, which is a subsidiary of Abbey. "We now own Props of Texas and a third of my business is what I would call prop and decor, both in the special event business and trade show business and even in television," Jakob says. "We are a little different from your local rental company."

Being different has paid off for Jakob, who says his business saw increased sales of about 25 percent last year. In 1998, the company did a lot of set dressing for the TV show Walker, Texas Ranger and a variety of feature films, including 1998's Universal Soldier Part Two. "Most of what we do is unglamorous, everyday stuff," he says, "like a table and chair and the placement of an old Look magazine."

Jakob predicts that more companies will get into the props business as a natural progression in the rental industry. "If you look at rental stores now, a lot of them are already making props a portion of their business-especially some of the mom and pops in Texas, where you see a piece of split-rail fence or a wagon wheel," Jakob says. "This is something that just happens over time as things become more decor-oriented."

Whether a rental company decides to focus on props or another avenue, diversification is key, Jakob says. "The rental industry is going to have to be innovative in order to survive," he says, "or lose a straight business [tables and chairs] to consolidators."

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