Every person and every company has a story; let me share ours with you! Back in 1979 my father, Richard “Lefty” Kane was playing on a local softball team. The team was trying to raise enough money to attend nationals in Las Vegas. After lots of brainstorming they decided to run weekend tournaments and ended up getting their hands on an old GP Medium (16’x32’) military tent to house the concession stand. Goal accomplished…after hosting several tournaments and running concessions for all of them, they raised enough money to fly everyone including spouses/girlfriends along with the teams’ sponsor to Las Vegas.
Now what? What to do with the tent? Throughout that summer, my dad and I (8 year old son Patrick Kane) did all the set-up and take downs and ended up getting ourselves very acclimated to the process of tent installs. Dad, Lefty, saw an opportunity and offered to buy the tent back from the team.
In 1980, Lefty’s Rent A Tent (literally) was generated! Thinking back to those days, I have to laugh…we had no mentors, trial and error was our teacher. I still remember some of the customers’ faces when they came out to meet us at their tent site and would be in awe, in a confused way, with what they had just rented. The concept of renting an army tent for an event was not always an easy sell, but many times when we arrived to do the take down, customers expressed that they had a blast.
Stepping up our game!! In 1982 Dad ended up purchasing our first set of regular party canopies and finally entered into modern day tent rental. Outdoor tented events were a new concept in Northern Minnesota at that time. People had very little experience hosting events under a tent so we had our work cut for ourselves. We started to capture a market for outdoor graduation parties, family reunions, town celebrations and smaller weddings and with that positive growth and response we decided to add in several more tents over the next few years.
Growing Pains: My father was a full time meat cutter, or in his words ‘beef surgeon’ when this adventure started. Having arrived at the mature age of 10, I remember numerous times, my dad saying, “We have to set up so and so’s tent and I work, so we need to find someone to drive you to the site.” Needless to say we ran into a few problems. Over the next few years, we worked together to find a family friend or one of my older friends to drive me to the site or work with me for the day. My first real sense of management…cool!
Coming of age: “I finally got my driver’s license!” This was the day that Lefty’s started to change! Scheduling of jobs now took on a different flavor. Now tents could be scheduled when needed, not when we could find a driver. It also relieved dad from some stress now that he didn’t have to work a full time job and figure out how to get 10 tents up for the weekend. If he was available…Great…if not, I took care of it! Over the next couple of summers we really started to dial up the rentals. A lot of work, but I loved it! Dad had time to focus on other things; changes in hardware to make things stronger and assist with faster set-ups and overall higher quality of product really started to surface.
Those days still hold some of my fondest memories. Working side by side with my father, playing sports, hanging with friends – even if it meant on a tent route, finishing up my high school days and watching my mom shake her head at both of us. Priceless!
College bound! The time finally came to leave home. Pulling out of the driveway, I was ready to see what was next in life and left mom and dad crying in the yard. Mom, because her baby was all grown up the last child was leaving the nest. Dad…watching his business partner, son and friend leave the yard knew things were changing and tent set ups were all his until my return.
This produced a very pivotal point in our business and relationship. We talked long and hard about letting me run with the business and letting him help out when he could. This meant I was able to hire friends to help me for the summers and allowed me to do most of the reservations and scheduling to help organize this growing business. We started to grow our market ever so slightly. Every year, we increased our tent line significantly and started to find ourselves doing some bigger events and weddings. Things were moving quickly.
The shift: As my college years came to an end…things started to change. Dad was now in his mid 50’s, and the tent business was starting to take a lot of time. I was getting ready to graduate and enjoying the prospects ahead of me. Several companies had inquired with me regarding recruitment and I had been dating my future wife for 4 years and we were not sure if Lefty’s was “our” future. Time for a meeting with dad!
In short, this is how it went: “Dad what are you going to do if I don’t come back after I graduate and get married?” Response: “Not sure, is that something you are considering?” Me: “Well, the company is not big enough to support a single family yet, let alone two. If I did decide to come back, it would need to be run by a single family or owner.” Response: “I don’t think I can retire yet…make me an offer!”
The next morning, I had an offer on the table for my dad to review. Offer accepted! We agreed to maintain everything the same until the summer of 1995. This allowed me to graduate in December of 1993 from the University of Wisconsin – Stout (Bachelor in Hospitality and Tourism), my future wife and business partner Kristi to graduate from St. Cloud State University in March of 1994 (Bachelor in English), followed by our wedding in the summer of 1994. Added surprise…we were blessed to welcome our daughter Kyla before the summer of 1995 too.
Second generation: Thus we began our adventure. In 1995 my new family and I embarked on a new journey with 1 truck, 1 small trailer, 26 various sized tents, some sidewalls and all the hardware to install the tents…office for the first month was mom and dad’s kitchen table, warehouse was mom and dad’s car garage…all of this doesn’t equal a happy wife at times. Lefty’s Rent a Tent became Kane Rentals Inc, DBA Lefty’s Tent and Party Rental. Kristi and I started out with the notion that whatever we did would be with excellent quality with the goal of surpassing our customers’ expectations. We worked our tails off to get some separation from my mom and dad and to give them a little peace. Over the next 2 years we completely moved everything to our own property. Yay! Our office was moved to our house, the warehouse was now a 3 plus stall garage (1000 sq ft) on property I purchased adjacent to my parents.
Money was tight but Kristi and I reinvested almost everything back into the business to expand inventory and product lines. We targeted some newer tents, bigger tents and the much needed table and chair option the customer was constantly asking for. Kristi started to do some event coordinating and decorating to help with the business budget. All this while both of us went back out into the community and worked outside our business for several years to help with the finances.
Our daughter Kyla was growing up and quickly became a fixture in the office or on route with dad. I sang “You are my Sunshine!” every time we headed out to do tents. What a little worker!
Even though money was tight, these were some of the most memorable years. We hired my best friend, Heath, to help during the summer months and after 20 plus years he has a permanent position on our family tree and is referred to as ‘Uncle Heath’.
1998: By 1998 things were moving quickly! Growing inventory required us to build our first warehouse, which also gave us room for a real office. I was excited to finally have some space to work with and so was Kristi. 1600 sq ft of new space brought a smile on our faces! Our business was changing right before our eyes. Lefty’s now had tables, chairs, decorative items, abras, around 40 tents, some china, glassware and flatware. We moved away from 1 truck and trailer to 2 trucks and 2 bigger trailers along with enough guys to run 2 crews. Bonus…Kristi announced that she was pregnant with #2! In 1999 we welcomed our last child and only son, Dallas, into our family! Kyla is an excellent big sister! Dallas quickly becomes a favorite with the Lefty’s staff. At this stage in our lives, I have been helping to coach varsity football for the past 3 years at Greenway High School and most of the tent crew are also players. What a tremendous group of young men!
2003: In 2003 Lefty’s was again in need of more space. We decided to add an addition onto the warehouse and at the same time give our office a complete facelift. The addition was over 2000 sq ft and included a loading dock!! The office turned out beautiful and Lefty’s started to incorporate the tag line, “More than just Tents!”
Our product line was growing, we began running 4 tent crews, our territory expanded and Lefty’s Tent and Party Rental was becoming one of the premiere tent rental companies in Northern Minnesota. The crews understood that our customers deserve excellence!
2008: By this time, we had once again outgrown our space. In 2000 we had started a small sewing center for repairs to our own product as well as peoples boat covers, tents, tarps…etc. This venture started to grow at a steady pace. Cleaning and maintenance on china rentals and food service equipment was starting to overwhelm us with a limited wash facility and our tent warehouse was congested. Lefty’s constructed a multilevel building (8000 sq ft) that houses office space, a large sanitary wash facility for food service products, 3 loading docks, a customer pick up door, a tent loft to help organize product, a bathroom for the crews and a training/break room. Awesome!!
The older warehouse was turned into a large indoor sewing center called Lefty’s Canvas Shop. This shop also houses all décor items and some specialty rental items. Staff is now starting to reach almost 20 people and is more focused than ever to provide excellent customer service and bring you what you need.
2014: Lefty’s has taken a huge leap into providing the highest quality tent available. The company constructed a 2000 sq ft addition that houses a very large tent washing machine and state of the art drying facility. Excellence has been dialed up!
2016: May the future be with you! Here at Lefty’s Tent and Party Rental we never rest. We have decided to shake some things up to bring you something new! In January, we are opening up Lefty’s Online Auction Center. This entity is an affiliate of Do-bid.com. Lefty’s will help you sell your “stuff”! This might include estate sales, business liquidations, inventory surplus, manufacturing/construction/farm & lawn equipment, vehicles, trucks and trailers, personal property, RV, marine, boats and power sports equipment. With over 22,000 online registered bidders, Lefty’s will help you get the money you deserve.
Our story may be long…but it sure has been an excellent ride so far! Thank you for allowing Lefty’s to be a part of your life! Our staff is trained to realize that you deserve excellence and we will do everything in our power to make that come true.
Thank you for reading our story!
Pat and Kristi Kane, Owners