MEDINA — A large neon sign announces your arrival at Highway 55 Rental — the aptly named store sits on Highway 55 in Medina. Inside the store, party games line the walls along with tents, yard games, and anything else one might need for a graduation party, wedding or celebration.
Brothers Jon and Chris Pederson became minority partners in the business about four years ago. Their father Reg Pederson and uncle Jeff Pederson started the business in 1979 after buying the property Highway 55 Rental sits on in the early 1970s.
This year the business is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The family celebrated with a huge party for friends and patrons at the store on July 31.
Originally, the business just rented tools and trucks. Today, the business is split into two sections — renting party equipment and renting tools and other equipment.
“They just started renting small stuff, volleyball nets, tables and chairs and little tents and grew this as well,” Chris said.
Both operate under the same name and often the party-supply business uses tools and trucks from the tool-rental business, Chris said.
Chris started working at the store around age 11, Jon at age 12. They both worked summers for most of their lives, growing up in the store.
The Pedersons grew up in Plymouth, both attending Wayzata High School — Chris graduated in 1999 and Jon graduated in 2005.
“There were lots of times, and I’m sure Jon would say the same, where we both were convinced we would definitely not do this for our whole lives,” Chris said. “But I’m very happy we are right now. I don’t know if it was ever necessarily part of the plan, but it’s definitely a very good opportunity.”
Chris doesn’t do much labor anymore. He focuses on sales and marketing. Jon still does some lifting, but now focuses mostly on hiring, firing and day-to-day operations.
Chris believes people come back to Highway 55 Rental because of the experienced staff and the honest sales techniques.
“Whether it’s a landscaping or home project people are working on, or a party they are planning, they might know what they are trying to do but they might not know the equipment they need,” Chris said. “We don’t try to upsell people on things that they don’t need, there is no point in it. If we try to rent a customer too big of a tent for a party, they look silly, we look silly and we don’t get repeat business.”
Chris says one of the more interesting parts of the business is the trends of yard and party games that change from year to year. This summer, dunk tanks have been very popular, Chris noted, while in previous years inflatable movie screens were a hit, but he hasn’t seen it used as much this summer.
Sometimes they get requests for party supplies they’ve never heard of and, depending on what it is, they might be willing to buy it for their rental customer, Chris said. This summer, a customer asked for a “doughnut board,” a display board with posts where you can hang doughnuts. Chris looked it up on Pinterest and saw it was a party trend, so they bought one. He says they’ve gotten a few more requests for the board this summer.
There is a shelf life on rentals, which is the nature of the rental business — some things go out of style permanently and eventually items like tents, chairs and games are past the point where they can be repaired. Chris said it’s important to the business to make sure they aren’t still renting anything that is damaged, and while it’s expensive to replace items, in the long run, it keeps people coming back.
He attributes their 40 years in business to this philosophy.
Highway 55 Rental is at 225 Highway 55 in Medina. The website is www.55rental.com.