Coronavirus restrictions are “absolutely” killing the party rental industry and “destroying what America is,” according to one 40-year-old business.
“People don't realize when you see an award show or go to a big gala that you go in, it’s this atmosphere; the food, the entertainment. But people don't think about the dishes, the linens, the chairs, the tables they sat in – all that had to comes from somewhere. And that's our industry. We provide all this stuff they can set up to be able to host these events that people are attending,” Jill Weis of Cartwright & Daughters Tent & Party Rentals told FOX Business.
Cartwright & Daughters Tent & Party Rentals, based in Patterson, N.Y., is the quintessential mom-and-pop fairytale. In 1981, Pam, a baker and Jerry, a part-time restaurant worker, started the business with just a few tables, chairs and tents. Years later, it grew to be a bustling business catering to festivals, corporate events and weddings with a clientele base ranging from average people to MLB royalty like New York Yankees great Mariano Rivera. To this day, Jerry and Pam Cartwright’s three daughters Tracey Sherwood, Jill Weis and Laura Darlymple are still helping Jerry run the business while Pam watches the grandchildren, the future of the company.
“We all grew up in the business. I remember as a kid ironing napkins when I was in first grade, being excited to go to work, to go help out and help wash dishes and do things like that,” Darlymple explained. “We all worked in every department of this business, too. So we all kind of know how everything works.”
The industry, which relies heavily on social gatherings such as corporate events and marriages, was expected to create a $6 billion market in 2020 and grow at least 1%, according to expert market research. Moreover, the party supply rental industry in the U.S. grew by 3% on average between 2015 and 2020.
For Cartwright & Daughters, 2020 was supposed to be historic. But in March, the virus rate surged and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo unleashed a mandatory lockdown, closing 100% of nonessential businesses and banning nonessential gatherings of any size.
“We were looking at it being one of the most promising years for revenue and the amount of events and weddings we were pushing out and we just lost it all,” Weis explained.
When restrictions eased, their only saving grace was their peak season between May through the end of October, which delivered "backyard" events and scaled-down weddings. But it wasn't enough to pay their workers beyond fall. As a result, they were forced to lay off most of their longtime employees for the first time, many of whom are considered family.
“This is so difficult because we're just a core group. Now there’s just five of us left... our guys have been with us through thick and thin… we have a lot of history together, and that's what makes it even tougher,” Weis said.
In November, New York’s statewide unemployment rate decreased from 9.2% to 8.4%, according to the Department of Labor. Comparably, the national unemployment rate dropped to 6.7%.
They are worried, especially in a tough job market that their employees will find it hard to feed their families and keep their homes.
"Our main employees, like our guys that have been with us for over 20 years, all bought houses in the past two years and they all have families," Darlymple said.
"It's scary," she added. "It's scary for us to even sit there and have to do this. It's not our fault by any means."
Now, Cartwright & Daughters is battling Cuomo's latest round of restrictions, commanding bars, restaurants, gyms and any State Liquor Authority-licensed establishments to abide by a strict 10 p.m. curfew and limiting private gatherings to no more than 10 people until the virus dies down.
But time is running out for this business, they stressed. If people are not allowed to get together soon, nothing will save it.
“You're destroying the family unit. You're destroying what America is,” Darlymple said.
They are also frustrated with local lawmakers for hitting small businesses hard.
“You know, you're out shopping – Walmart yesterday was a nightmare trying to get through the store. People are in there shoulder to shoulder and yet you can't get together with your family. [The local government is] picking and choosing and it's not right,” Sherwood said.
“You can put things down on the floor telling people to go down the aisles this way or go down the aisle that way. It [restrictions] doesn't apply to these big corporations. It's the small businesses like us and the restaurants that are really taking the biggest hit. We are the ones suffering,” she added.
Even so, the women are determined to continue to fight and carry on their parents’ legacy.
“We have no intention of folding or going out of business,” said Weis. “I think it's because of the family and how close-knit everybody is here, even with our employees – that’s what keeps pushing us forward.”