THOUGH his tenure with Classic Party Rentals has been relatively short, John Campanelli's outlook is firmly footed in the long term. With 17 months under his belt at the helm of the nation's largest event rental company, the former president of RR Donnelley's $3 billion printing operation says, “I spend more time looking forward than backward.” The goal in his sights: “Our mission is to be No. 1 in the hearts and minds of our clients and employees.”

How does El Segundo, Calif.-based Classic — with 12 locations, nearly 2,000 staff and roughly $140 million in annual sales — plan to reach this goal? By recognizing the promise in competitors and then snapping them up in order to expand its reach into markets across the country, for starters. Most recently, the December acquisition of Carrollton, Texas-based Ducky-Bob's Party & Tent Rentals has “expanded our geographic footprint,” Campanelli says. He counts another recent score — that of the tent rental operations of Torrance, Calif.-based Aztec Tents & Events in November — as the proudest achievement of his nascent rental industry career, touting in particular the “acquisition of [Aztec president] Chuck Miller and all of the Aztec experience … I think this acquisition is an ‘instant classic.’”

Not only do these acquisitions help Classic expand its inventory, but they also make it possible for the company to pursue another one of its growth initiatives: serving remote events.

“In the past year we have traveled to Idaho, Mexico and Qatar, to name a few,” Campanelli recounts. Particularly in the case of overseas events, the challenges posed can be enormous. “In the case of international events, you're looking at freight, customs, language [barriers],” he says. On top of that, there's the matter of actually getting your product where it has to be, when it has to be there. “If you have one store, one location, you're focused on that market entirely. With our locations, and with the right logistical planning, we can marshal the people and the inventory we need to get them to where the events are,” he says. “That's good news and bad news for us — it means we're doing more and more of these events,” forcing the company to overcome the obstacles of international business and hone its skills in new markets quickly.

But just because Classic is going international doesn't mean that the company will forget where it started. Campanelli says a big part of his current focus is “on the major events that we have coming up in early 2006: the Rose Bowl [in southern California], the Fiesta Bowl [in Tempe, Ariz.] and the Super Bowl [in Detroit] are all utilizing our services this year — it's clearly a football-intensive start.” Noting that Classic is proud to be associated with each of these events, he adds, “Of course, for those events in our home markets, the parties are bigger and better when the home team wins!”




Classic Party Rentals 2310 E. Imperial Highway, El Segundo, CA 90245; 310/535-3660; www.classicpartyrentals.com

SO SO-CAL

During his 17 months with Classic, “The biggest change in customer demand is a growing number of parties and events. Because of explosive growth in the Palm Desert [Calif.] and San Diego markets, for instance, we have just significantly increased the size of our facilities to help us better meet the demands of our growing client base.”

STYLE WATCH

“There is a growing demand on the West Coast for impressive structure-style tenting. Increased focus on interior color swagging, dramatic lighting and specialty linen inside the tenting allows our clients to have events that are highly personalized. Demand for specialized decor items that follow the color palette or overall theme of the party is rising, while there also is an increased focus on ‘themed’ tabletop place settings.”

BY THE BOOK

“Unlike many of our competitors, we have actual training programs not only to bring people to acceptable skill levels, but also to help them grow and broaden their scope of abilities and talents. We will continue to grow and develop our team members and continue to provide industry-leading benefits, compensation, training programs and safety programs, and follow strict adherence to all local permitting requirements and regulations.”