Wedding business thriving

“Do you know how many family businesses are destroyed by parents who can’t let go?” asks Marty Bathrick, owner of Events Unlimited, a wedding-party equipment rental business with 2010 sales of about $800,000, located in an inconspicuous warehouse adjacent Northeast Solite Corp. on King’s Highway.

It’s not yet 9 a.m. on a Monday morning and the tall, lanky 48-year-old is halfway though demonstrating to daughter Kate, a svelte and intense blond sophomore at SUNY Binghamton, how to quickly brush-stain an unfinished wooden party chair. According to Bathrick, none of his competitors in the region use this same color of neutral beige – without a hint of amber – and that gives him an advantage with certain brides and wedding-planners.

“I’m adamant my children won’t work in my business,” says Bathrick, a Rhinebeck native whose parents owned Rhinebeck True Value Hardware Store, where Marty worked as a youth. The comment seems a tad incongruous when matched with the scene playing out before me.

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After successfully engineering the hardware store’s expansion into the equipment rental business, a competitive kerfuffle – let’s not call it a feud – developed between Marty and his three siblings, who lived elsewhere. In the years following his father’s death in 1992, Marty managed the family business with input from his mother, and annual sales grew at a healthy clip. His siblings soon expressed increased interest in the “family enterprise,” and by 2001 it became apparent to Marty that his mother wasn’t going to sell the business to him. She later sold it to an outsider. Although at the time the son and mother parted company abruptly – a painful moment – it turned out to be the best thing which could have happened to Marty personally, because otherwise he would never have gone out on his own. Today, all fences have been mended.

The anti-nepotism comment seems even more ironic when Bathrick’s girlfriend of seven years, the stunning Ling Kwan, principal cellist for the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra, shows up with her 14-year-old son from a previous relationship and her quiet but quick-eyed mother in tow. Marty asks Kate to show her de facto stepbrother how to stain chairs now that she’s been briefed.

“I’ll give the kids money but if I’m going to do that they might as well learn how to do something for it,” said Bathrick, smiling but walking fast, looking back over his shoulder to make sure the dishwashing crew isn’t dawdling as he escorts me into the showroom.
“You chose a good morning to come see the business. We did two weddings over the weekend and everyone’s busy washing all the dishes and glasses and putting everything away,” he explained.

 

Kind of recession-proof

Next, Bathrick did what most highly competent offspring in that position do: he launched a similar enterprise, further away, but this time, as his own boss.

“Oh, I took a year off, but then I incorporated in 2002 and by 2003, I was renting a warehouse in Beacon. I started off with a few tents, two colors of china and one style of glassware,” recalls Bathrick.

Today he has about $2 million in rental-equipment inventory.

In addition to tents of all sizes, dance floors, space-heaters, tables, and linens of all colors, Events Unlimited rents 20 different styles of chairs, 13 styles of china, 11 styles of wine glasses, and even eight types of martini glasses. The martini glasses seem a bit odd to me, so I ask.

“Oh, that’s the Manhattan crowd,” he explains. “Hudson Valley weddings are hot right now, the bridal magazines are filled with ideas for having your wedding here. Ninety-five percent of our customers come from New York, Long Island and New Jersey; they’re first-time brides in their 20s; the average reception size is about 120 guests, and our most popular tent-rental is 40’ x 60’,” he said.

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