QUESTION: What do you get when you take one real estate broker, add a love of at-home entertaining and a dash of entrepreneurial ambition? Answer: Charlie Feldbaum. The former college finance major and one-time stockbroker says it was his desire after 13 years in the residential real estate market to buy a company. A business broker led him to event rental as a possible industry of interest. But it was his own passion for party-throwing — not to mention the encouraging input of a consultant Feldbaum wisely hired to research rental competitors in his local market — that ultimately sold him on buying into events.
Starting out humbly, making inventory purchases out of a home-based office, Feldbaum built his business into Apres Party Rental, an Edina, Minn.-based firm that offers, in Feldbaum's words, “full-service rentals from any size tent to everything possible under the tent.” In 1995, Feldbaum, in what he calls his business' milestone move, bought “what I thought was a huge space, and one I thought we'd never move out of” — a 34,000-square-foot building to house Apres' ever-expanding inventory. Now, on the eve of its 20th anniversary next year, the company is “faced with another milestone — the effect of growth and success,” Feldbaum says. “We will need to find a larger building in the next few years.”
Feldbaum attributes much of that success to adaptability — most importantly, being able to adapt to the rapidly evolving Twin Cities market he serves, which “has really become a cornerstone for big business and the arts in the last few years,” he notes. “We have found a niche in the upper-end markets where we provide our services. ‘If you have it, they will come’ is something we joke about when we showcase new items.”
Much of that showcasing goes on in the area of linen, where Apres prides itself on innovation and selection. “Next to tent revenue, linen is our second largest,” Feldbaum says. “We're trying to set trends here.” For the coming season's events, that might mean topping tables in pairings of brown and peacock blue, or retro patterns featuring “circles and triangles, geometrics and funky colors,” he notes.
The ability to provide such contemporary looks in linen, not to mention lighting, furnishings and tents, has won Apres clients on the order of the Minneapolis Public Library, Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the city's recently renovated Guthrie Theater. But perhaps even more important, it has given Feldbaum a profound sense of pride in ownership: “I brought to the Twin Cities a company that was not present here and have grown it into a major force in the event business,” he says. “Owning one's own business has many rewards, and mine are the smiles on my employees' faces, knowing they love what they do and love coming to work — well, most days!”
Apres Party and Tent Rental 7625 Cahill Road, Edina, MN 55439; 952/942-3399; www.apresparty.com
LOST AND FOUND
“A major headache in my job is missing items — getting the items back that we send out and making sure they are not damaged and are rentable again. Our key, and we've been proficient in this, is double- and triple-counting on the way in. The last thing I want is to charge a customer for replacements. So we count on site when the customer is still in the venue, and we say, ‘Here's what we're missing; please help us find it.’”
“We are in the Midwest and resilient to many of the large changes that are felt on the East and West coasts. Many times we do not feel the downward slide of things as quickly as it is felt on both coasts. I do feel that I have to be prudent with spending, but I feel we will continue to grow and prosper in the next few years.”
“I started my company almost 20 years ago, working out of the lower level of my home. I hired the right people, I made some good decisions, and I went with my heart and gut when making these good business decisions. I have also made some stupid decisions that have cost me a lot of money, but without them I would not have been able to grow and prosper and know what makes sense for this market.”