The Lumberyard Rentals store in Hillsboro provides professional contractors and plumbers, as well as the do-it-yourself homeowner, with access to an array of state-of-the-art tools and equipment without them having to make a major personal investment of finances and storage space.
They can simply rent what they need—for the day, week or however long it takes to get the job done.
“Word is getting around about us, and people realize that we do have a lot of stuff over here,” said Jon Hefley, co-owner of Lumberyard Rentals.
Hefley estimates that in the store’s ninth year of existence the inventory of rental items has grown to “300 to 400.” The list includes everything from small power tools, to garden tillers to large scissor lifts, trenchers and trailers.
Lumberyard Rentals didn’t start out large. In fact, it emerged almost as an afterthought to the “mother” business, The Lumberyard Inc., a full-service provider of building materials and supplies that has roots in Hillsboro going back more than a century.
“We were borrowing out a lot of things to people as part of that business,” Hefley recalled. “Then we started thinking, well, we’re having to work with all of that, and we’re having to pay to fix things when they come back in. So we said maybe we ought to start charging for some of this and get more into the rental business.”
So they opened a rental store across the street from The Lumberyard’s location at 101 N. Ash St. “and started adding a few things,” Hefley said.
When Matt Kukuk joined the team as manager of the overall enterprise, he and the owners decided to develop the rental store further.
“Matt came in and said there’s a good market around if we can get into this business, so we started expanding it,” Hefley said. “Matt oversees everything and he’s done a wonderful, wonderful job. He’s elevated this place far and beyond.”
Within a few years Lumberyard Rentals had outgrown its location. In 2005, Cooperative Grain and Supply offered to sell its store building on the lot adjacent to The Lumberyard property.
“It was right next door, and we were looking at adding some bigger equipment and didn’t have a place to keep it,” Hefley said. “So we worked our way into this building. We’ve just been steadily expanding it and adding more equipment ever since.”
Lumberyard Rentals has enjoyed slow but steady growth over the years. Hefley said the business is just starting to come into it own as word spreads beyond Hillsboro and the borders of Marion County about the variety of equipment and tools it offers.
“We’re getting a lot of people from different counties, including McPherson, Harvey and Chase, coming down,” Hefley said. “It’s getting to be a pretty big circle now.”
Hefley estimates that about 60 percent of the store’s business comes from professional contractors and plumbers, with the remaining 40 percent from homeowners and do-it-yourselfers.
Meeting the diverse needs of that customer base is what has fueled the growth in the store’s inventory.
“If we get enough requests for an item, we’ll usually go out and bring it in,” Hefley said. “We encourage people to come in and tell us what they need.”
Hefley said Lumberyard Rentals sets its fees to be competitive with the larger market.
“We kind of go off the rental rates from different areas,” he said. “We try to stay very, very competitive with the bigger markets in Wichita, Salina and Emporia.”
The store also strives to provide good customer service, including operational training on the equipment.
“We try to walk them threw it all, make sure it starts, show them how it runs, and try to get them to understand that they need to operate it in a certain way, otherwise stuff can happen,” Hefley said.
When problems do arise, the staff evaluates each case on its own merits.
“If it’s something that is the machine’s fault, we take care of it,” Hefley said. “If it’s something that is user negligence, then they get billed for it. That’s pretty standard procedure.”
Overall, Hefley said renting equipment rather than buying it makes a lot of sense for professionals and the typical do-it-yourselfer.
“We do the maintenance,” he said. “All they have to do is pick it up, go to work with it and then bring it back. They don’t have to buy it and store it, and have it just set there until the next time they need it.
“They leave that for us.”
With more space in recent years, Lumberyard Rentals has added inventory for retail, including lawn and garden equipment, seed and supplies, as well as a line of all-terrain vehicles.
“It’s been a little hard to get people to realize that we sell things over here too, like lawn and garden tools,” Hefley said. “They think it’s just a rental place, but it’s sales too.
In addition, the store sells its rental equipment after a given amount of use.
“That’s something people need to know—we sell as well rent,” Hefley said.
In fact, from May 15 through 17, the store will be having a clean-up sale that will include a variety of used tools and equipment.
With the long winter season finally giving way to the warmer weather of spring, Hefley said equipment rental has started to pick up as building, remodeling and landscaping jobs lure workers outdoors.
Hefley said the staff at Lumberyard Rentals stands ready to assist—and to hear how the store might provide even more equipment-rental options in the future.
“If they have something that they think might work here, we’d like to hear from them,” Hefley said. “Just come in and take a look around.”