By Ivan Raconteur
Lester Prairie native Jill Kohls said when Lester Prairie’s Do It Yourself Rental closed last fall, area residents were left without a local source for rental equipment.
Kohls saw a need, and began looking for a way to fill it.
“We were sorry to see the store close, but there was still a need there. The closing left a gaping hole for area residents,” Kohls said.
She and her brother, Joe Miller (not the school superintendent), grew up in Lester Prairie, and graduated from Lester Prairie High School.
Miller still lives in Lester Prairie, and Kohls now lives near Plato. They are business partners, and opened Belle Rental Center in Belle Plaine in May 2005.
When they heard about the closing of rental business in Lester Prairie, they considered opening a new store in the city, but doing so would increase costs and require them to hire additional staff.
“We started looking for a local business that we could partner with, and the most logical choice was the hardware store,” Kohls said.
She approached Eric Angvall, who, with his wife, Judy, owns Angvall Hardware and Mercantile.
Angvall was receptive to the idea, and, after several discussions, they agreed to move forward with a partnership arrangement that they say will help both businesses, and fill a need that wasn’t being met since Do It Yourself Rental closed.
“It is a win-win situation,” Kohls said. “He will act as our reservation agent and pick up/drop off point in Lester Prairie.
Some items will be stocked at Angvall’s, and customers will be able to reserve other items ahead of time.
Kohls explained that she and Miller are in the city frequently because their mother still lives there, and Miller comes home to Lester Prairie every night, which will make it easy for them to bring items back and forth between the two locations.
“We will be able to get 99 percent of the items here the next day when customers reserve them,” Angvall said. “There is a chance that if people order during the day, we may even be able to get some items here the same night,” he added.
Kohls said Belle Rental Center carries a full line of general equipment, tools and party items.
The inventory includes air tools, generators, pressure washers, concrete saws, trenchers, paint sprayers, lawn and garden equipment, skid steers, and a selection of party equipment such as tables, chairs, tents, and “bounce houses.”
Kohls said the partnership will be good for her business, because it will provide a broader market for her equipment.
She said she expects the move to help Angvall by generating more traffic in the hardware store, and providing opportunities for sale of accessory items. She said if customers rent lawn and garden equipment through the store, they might buy seeds, soil patch, or mulch at the same time.
“It will make him more of a one-stop shop,” Kohls commented.
Angvall said he hopes people will have patience with the new venture, as he learns what items people need and tries to stock the most popular items.
“We will try to address the inventory based on our customers’ needs,” Angvall said.
He added that he doesn’t plan to display a skid steer or other large equipment anytime soon, but said he will try to stock smaller items that are in demand.
Angvall said he is in the process of getting some product lists printed. Customers can call Angvall at (320) 395-2211 to reserve items or get more information. Customers can also call Belle Rental Center at (952) 873-3331, or view the inventory on the company’s web site, www.bellerental.com.
With spring just around the corner, the companies expect to be ready to help customers with their lawn and garden needs, as well as graduation party accessories.
Both Angvall and Kohls seemed enthusiastic about the new arrangement, and say it is a way for two small businesses to work together for their mutual benefit.
“We are excited about it. We both grew up in Lester Prairie. This is a way for us to help fill a need for the city and to help a local business. We want to see things in Lester Prairie survive,” Kohls said.