Nestled into the small Iron Range town of Bovey is the largest party rental company North of the Twin Cities. With 25 employees, over 16,000 square feet of warehouse space, and 7 crews on the road setting up on average 40-50 tents per week, Lefty’s Tent and Party Rental is also the only exclusive event rental company in Northern Minnesota.
And it’s been that way from the start…
Nearly 40 years ago, Richard “Lefty” Kane had a problem. The softball team he played for was trying to figure out how to raise enough money to get their team to Las Vegas for nationals. The solution popped up in an old GP medium (16’x32’) military tent. The team hosted weekend tournaments and sold concessions out of tent, raising enough money to fly the team, their spouses/girlfriends, and their sponsor to Las Vegas.
Lefty and his 8 year old son, Patrick, did most of the set-up and takedown that summer. Lefty saw an opportunity and purchased the tent back from the team. The next year Lefty’s Rent A Tent began. Within a couple years, regular party canopies were rented and the father/son duo set out to convince Northern Minnesota to have tented outdoor events, a new concept for the range.
They started gaining ground with small events like grad parties, reunions, and town celebrations. While Lefty worked full-time as a butcher, the young Patrick was responsible for a lot of the set-up and take downs, getting to and from sites with friends and family that were old enough to drive him. Once Pat was able to drive himself, the business really started to grow. Lefty held down the fort when Pat went off to college a few years later. Each year the company grew – increasing their line of tents and the number of events, leading to bigger events and weddings.
Two years after graduation, Pat, along with this new wife Kristi, and newborn daughter Kyla, took over the company. At this point they had 26 tents, one truck and trailer, a cozy office space at his mom and dad’s kitchen table, and a warehouse that was otherwise known as his parent’s garage. The young couple worked hard and within a couple years they had everything moved to their own small space.
By 2000, the husband and wife team had expanded to renting tables, chairs, and decorative items. They now had two trucks, 40 tents… and a newborn son, Dallas. In the years that followed, Lefty’s Tent and Party Rental has become the premiere tent rental company in Northern Minnesota. They serve all of Minnesota, NW Wisconsin and the Easter part of North Dakota. The company now has its own tent washing service, they are an affiliate of Do-Bid.Com online auction service and Lefty’s Canvas Shop to repair their own tents as well as others’ boat covers, tents, and tarps.
Following his father’s example, both of Pat and Kristi’s children help with the business. “Working with my kids is priceless,” says Pat, “I’m really enjoying it.” But he isn’t pressuring them to pick up the tent poles when he’s ready to put them down, allowing them the same freedom to choose their own future that his dad provided him.
Today Lefty’s sticks to their motto “We do the work, you do the partying.” They strive for professionalism from the first call to reserve a tent to taking the last pole from the ground. Pat Kane prides himself on having a well-trained and trusted staff that require no hand-holding when on site – letting their customer relax – at least on this detail of the party planning.
The Lefty’s crew is committed to each event as if it were their own. They understand that there are no do-overs in their industry – so getting everything just right is their specialty.
Negativity is not allowed, Pat is a firm believer in positive thinking, telling his staff, “they have the control, you can change any situation with your attitude.” His ability to lead and inspire his staff comes, in part, from his years coaching varsity football and basketball at Greenway High School. Many of his players become his employees. “My goal is to teach them to be great employees – whether they are working for me or someone else.” explained Pat. A lot of the 16-25 boys/men he employees still need to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them, that someone is always watching, and that there are consequences for their actions. The results of his leadership are evident in the professional level of service his company provides.
“Our staff works so hard. We’re very good at what we do. The attention brought by our staff is second to none. We listen to our customers and let them know it means a lot that they trust us,” shares Pat. “Shana leads our sales department, and is exceptional. She spends a lot of time listening to our customers and helping educate them on areas of need. We know that if they don’t end up renting from us, at least they leave with the knowledge to make a good decision somewhere else.”
Part of that education is in the form of CAD diagrams of event layouts. The use of a CAD program is unique to Northern Minnesota, Lefty’s is one of the very few companies that currently offer it. The program allows them to enter site and layout information to make a diagram of the space, as well as a 3D virtual tour of what the event will look like, right down to the linen color and styles of tables. Once party planners see the space they are creating in nearly “real-life” form they can easily decide if they want a bigger tent, more or less tables, or a different footprint altogether.
This type of attention to detail has really paid off for Lefty’s. Pat shared the story of how they became the go-to tent rental company for a large Festival. Years ago, they were told they won the bid for a Bayfront event. Then, an oversight – an unsigned contract due to doubt by the event coordinator that a “northern” company could properly do the job, quashed their excitement and the job. The planners instead re-hired a large company from the cities, the result – after a storm blew through – toppled tents and ticked off promoters.
The next year, the festival called and asked for another bid. This time the contract was signed. When it came time to plan the delivery and set-up, Pat’s wife Kristi told the event planners they would be on-site for one day, from 7:30 am – 3:30 pm for set-up. The event staff laughed and said “You don’t know what you’re in for.” Every other company they had used took between 2-3 days to set-up. Kristi replied, “I don’t think you understand Pat.” Lefty’s team had the entire event set-up by 3 pm. “The event staff about lost their minds,” said Pat, “they couldn’t believe the dysfunction they’d been putting up with for years.” They told Pat “We’ll be doing business with you for a long time, “ and they have for over 10 years now. Pat thought the accomplishment was a nice realization for their company. They were doing things right, and could be a major player without being in the metro area.
New this year, Lefty’s will provide tents for both Moondance events in Walker, Minnesota. Despite their knack for pulling off big events, they love being part of small, personal celebrations. “It’s really special to be part of someone’s celebration,” said Pat. They offer a large variety of tents, tables, chairs, and décor for a huge mix of events. Think of Lefty’s for your tent rental needs at weddings, graduations, reunions, festivals, town events, and corporate events. Visit their website at www.rentatentandparty.com