They tried full-service party rental not once, but twice.

Herb and Betsy Stone built two successful event rental companies, Sisters in San Francisco and La Bella in Novato, Calif., but wound up selling each to Los Angeles-based Classic Party Rentals. They turned over Sisters in 2003 and La Bella last year. Why? “The demand for specialty linens became so great that we decided to again sell to Classic with the intention of focusing on fine linen rentals,” Betsy explains.

With La Tavola Fine Linen Rental, which opened its doors in Napa, Calif., in April, the Stones are betting on boom times for high-end event linen. The company stocks seven super-premium collections with more than 600 fabrics in a range of patterns and solids. Inventory spans tablecloths, runners, chair cushions, napkins and pillows. The company also carries a line of industry-standard linen that gets the same attention-to-detail treatment — “22-by-22 inches with a mitered 2-inch hem instead of a serged edge,” Betsy notes — as the company's premium product.

What accounts for the couple's passion for luxe linen? Herb attributes it to the desire he and his wife share with their clientele to raise the bar in event design. “Event planners get tired of seeing the same old polyester linen,” he states. “They want to guide their [clients]. They don't want what they did last week and the week before.” When the couple first tracked a trend toward specialty linen with Sisters and La Bella, they soon realized “there was no end to it,” he says.

“Linens can make or break a whole design,” Betsy adds. “They are a major part of the ‘vision’ for an event.” Recalling a time when “satin stripe was the specialty linen,” she notes that the hundreds of fabrics now available to event designers afford them both greater creativity plus an edge in the highly competitive event market.

Lending La Tavola an edge is the company's Napa showroom — a 4,100-square-foot haven of fine linen “meant to inspire creativity,” Betsy says. She likens the experience of visiting the showroom to the search for a spectacular wedding gown. “Just like when you are looking for that perfect dress, we have samples of all our linens so that you can ‘dress’ your table,” she says. La Tavola's goal is to help clients find “a linen to reflect their taste and vision,” she adds.

Aiding the process are marketing tools such as La Tavola's Design Bag, created by celebrated San Francisco-based handbag designer Sally Spicer. The bags, which Betsy praises as La Tavola's “biggest sales tool,” come filled with samples and are a favorite among event pros. “They offer a great selection,” Herb notes, “and give planners something to help sell the product to their own customers.”


La Tavola Fine Linen Rental 2545 Napa Valley Corporate Drive, Suite A, Napa, CA 94558; 707/257-3358; www.latavolalinen.com

ALWAYS IMPROVING

“It really does get better with time,” Betsy says. “Herb and I know our weaknesses and have been able to surround ourselves with the very best people in the event industry.”

IT'S ALL IN THE DETAILS

“Even as a caterer, I made sure that my wait staff looked professional,” Betsy says, “down to the bow ties for the men and pearls for the women.”

GIVING BACK

“My dream is to be part of benefits that raise money for AIDS research,” Betsy says. “Being near San Francisco, we have always taken the opportunity to work with fundraisers for AIDS. We also support children's causes. These are both important to Herb and myself.”