When Van Stubbs opened Busylad Inc. in Tupelo back in the 1960s, it was something of a gamble. After all, the equipment rental industry was still in relative infancy then. Who would want to rent tools?
Turns out Van Stubbs was a visionary. The rental industry has mushroomed over the years, and Busylad has grown right along with it. The company has steadily added to its offerings, even established a new division, all housed in an award-winning facility.
Van Stubbs has since passed away, but it is still a family-owned and run business. His son and daughter-in-law, Buddy and Mary Stubbs, now man the helm of Busylad, which is now an icon of the community and a familiar landmark on McCullough Boulevard in Tupelo that is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary.
As Van Stubbs, a native of Baldwyn, approached retirement from his National Guard position, he found out quickly that folks had never heard of equipment rental, including financiers. But he felt he had found an up-and-coming niche and believed in the concept. He subsequently convinced his banker to take a chance on him. The store officially opened in 1967.
Van started in a small, 1,000-square-foot store and a simple philosophy — serve the public. Busylad was not an overnight sensation, but grew steadily, mainly on the strength of Van Stubbs’ character and personality.
When asked what he learned from his father, Buddy said, “I learned patience, with situations and employees. He was a great guy who enjoyed people.”
As with many family businesses, Buddy grew up at Busylad. Also born in Baldwyn, Buddy, who now serves as president as well as co-owner, went on to Mississippi State University where he earned a degree in general business. He worked for Bank of Mississippi (now BancorpSouth) and in institutional food sales, but said he always planned to return to Busylad, which he did in 1983.
Much of Busylad’s expansion has come under the leadership of the husband-and-wife team of Buddy and Mary. One of the company’s biggest spurts came when it added party rentals. Van actually started the party rental business in the 1970s, but Buddy and Mary have significantly grown it. Originally, Busylad offered just a few basic event items, and the customer picked up and returned the merchandise. Now, the company provides everything imaginable in terms of inventory as well as consultation and event planning services. It can handle anything from a wedding to a groundbreaking.
A key to this is Mary’s credentials. She is a certified event rental professional (CERP), a program of the American Rental Association. Buddy said his wife’s knowledge and experience are a key component of Busylad’s success.
“We know it is important to truly listen to our customers’ needs, then offer creative options to help them host events,” Mary said. “Each person’s occasion is unique and requires attention to detail.”
Offering equipment and party rentals from the same facility brings special physical requirements. Not only are the items diametrical opposites, so are the customers for those objects. The inventory and customers can easily step on each other.
Thus, Busylad offers a unique store. Representing the company’s fourth location and opened in 2005, the facility was carefully designed to ensure the company’s customers have an enjoyable shopping experience. And, this has not gone unnoticed. Just last year, the 22,000-square-foot store received the American Rental Association’s President’s Image Award.
More to come
Busylad employs approximately 15 workers, and adds four or five employees during the summer season. And they stay, well, busy. The equipment rental side draws customers from a 20-30 mile radius of Tupelo, while the event side routinely pulls folks from 70 miles out, sometimes as far away as Arkansas.
Busylad’s slogan is “We Rent Everything…Almost,” and that is true. The company’s rental catalogue offers more than 50 rental categories, and all of these categories provide a myriad of products. For instance, Busylad has more than 35 different kinds of cake stands and more than a dozen different kinds of saws. Generators, hoists and sandblasting equipment, flatware, lighting equipment and stages and dance floors — Busylad has it all.
“There is a tremendous amount of satisfaction when we see our customers successfully complete a project by themselves, or conclude a special event,” he said.
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at email@example.com.