55 years all in the family is not easy for the Aspen business

Beth Hoff Blackmer and her father, Dave Hoff, have operated Rent-All for 55 years. Dave founded the business in Aspen in 1967. Beth bought it in 2000.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

When Dave Hoff started Aspen Rent-All in the basement of City Market in 1967, he worked hard, but he also wasn’t shy about hanging a closed sign from noon to 2 p.m. while skiing at Aspen Mountain.

“A lot of businesses would close 12 to 2,” he said. “I’ll go up and go through the gates behind Gretel (now Bonnie’s).”

Hoff was 28 in 1967 and tired of life on the road selling equipment for Bombardier. He wanted to settle down and spend more time with his young family in Aspen. He learned about the burgeoning rental market—everything from equipment for do-it-yourselfers to the rollaway beds that small lodges needed during the busy ski season.

Hoff set up his business in the only space available, next to the Steak Pit in the basement of the City Market building. It wasn’t the best place for his work because any rental equipment had to be lugged up and down the stairs.

“I knew it would grow. I just didn’t know what direction it would grow in.” — Dave Hoff, founder of Aspen Rent-All in 1967

“I had a strong back and a weak mind,” Hoff quipped.

It moved to new premises downtown after a few years, then moved to Aspen’s business center in the early 1970s. Success continued to require larger sites.

“I knew it would grow. I just didn’t know what direction it would grow in,” he said.

Grow up do it. The only similarity between the one-man operation Hoff started and the business that celebrated its 55th anniversaryth anniversary earlier this year is the family bond. Hoff’s daughter, Beth Hoff Blackmer, purchased Aspen Rent-All in 2000. She moved the thriving business from ABC to Holland Hills east of Basalt in 2014.

The 2 acre site with several workshops, garages and sheds allows growth to continue. Hoff Blackmer has invested $1.5 million in inventory. There are 450 pieces of equipment—from medium excavators to carpet cleaners, from electric hedge trimmers to trenchers, from trailers capable of towing up to 5,000 pounds to lawn aerators.

Beth Hoff Blackmer moved Aspen Rent-All from ABC to Holland Hills in 2014 to allow for continued expansion. | Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

The business motto is: “We have all the products to make your job easier.”

About 85% of the business comes from construction people and landscapers. Homeowners who tackle DIY projects and yard chores are responsible for the rest. Hoff Blackmer believes the second side of the business will grow even more with exposure.

Hoff Blackmer is the president of Aspen Rent-All and has a staff of 10 people to help with his work. Zach Fisher is the client relations manager and Justin Gish is the operations manager — both essential to the job, she said.

In fast-paced, ever-changing Aspen, it’s not easy to stay in business for 55 years. It is even rarer that a business stays in one family.

Beth, a 1981 graduate of Aspen High School, was selling sportswear and spending a lot of time on the road when an opportunity unexpectedly presented itself in 1999. Dave Hoff’s longtime business manager developed a medical problem and was forced to relocate. Dave had envisioned him as a successor in the business. When the medical issue came up, Dave was ready to take the business on the market.

But on one of the regular cycling trips Dave organized for his family and friends in Europe, two family friends and business tycoons convinced Beth that she should buy the business and keep it in the family. They literally caught up with her, riding on each side and making their ground.

“I had a sleepless night and woke up and said I want to buy it the next day,” Beth said.

She started working in the business on August 1, 1999 and purchased it on January 1, 2000. After being located in ABC since the early 1970’s, Beth made the decision to move Aspen Rent-All downvalley in 2014.

“I was nervous that moving from Aspen would be a challenge,” she said.

Instead, it is an economic good. Almost all of the contractors who hire from the business have employees who head up the valley in the morning and drive to the Aspen Rent-All store on Highway 82. The staff adjusts their hours to 6:30 a.m. to accommodate them.

“The remodeling, remodeling (market) is our bread and butter,” Hoff Blackmer said.

Many companies do not have the necessary tools for demolition projects. The DIY niche has grown since it moved down, where there are more homeowners of modest means attempting projects on their own. Hoff Blackmer said her staff is great at communicating with customers. The staff discovers what they do and advises what they need to hire to do it. They will help with instructions and provide videos for various tasks.

Hoff Blackmer stays abreast of industry trends through the American Rental Association, where she served as president for three years and ended her term with a presentation to 3,000 people.

Aspen Rent-All is working on plans to celebrate its anniversary with a customer party in August.

Dave is proud that the business continues to thrive, but not particularly surprised.

“I knew we would survive because it was a business that was important to the community,” he said.

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