Move opens up key corner to redevelopment; must give up party rentals

[caption id="attachment_15068" align="alignright" width="216" caption="All Star Rents' new Novato store at 875 Olive Ave."][/caption]

NOVATO – Fairfield-based All Star Rents had to give up party rentals at its 46-year-old Novato store in a recent move, but the company gained a much larger, more accessible location downtown that will allow the company to offer a greater selection of equipment.

All Star signed a sublease with Hertz Big 4 Rentals for its 1.5-acre yard and store at 875 Olive Ave. The deal was in the works since January, when Hertz decided to scale back locations, and was completed on Sept. 4. All Star relocated from 715 Grant Ave. over Labor Day weekend.

"We will be able to bring in more trucks and trailers and larger equipment and have capacity for large tractor-trailer rigs to bring in that larger equipment," said Chief Executive Officer Ken deVries.

At the same time, the city of Novato has been looking to redevelop All Star's site for high-end retail uses, particularly as plans gelled for the Whole Foods Market-anchored mixed-use Millworks development, and now that option is open, according to economic development and redevelopment director Ron Gerber.

"The issue was that it is hard to find suitable properties with yard space that allows for equipment and quasi-retail," he said about discussions with the deVries family about relocation over the years.

"Places where you want to have a yard are in industrial areas, but they wanted a place that would be accessible for homeowners to rent things they want."

Four equipment and rental companies were vying for the Hertz site in Novato because of the industrial and retail potential, according to NAI BT Commercial's Trevor Buck, who brokered both sides of the transaction. He's also marketing excess Hertz retail and yard space in Rohnert Park, the only other North Bay store to be scaled back.

The deVries family plans to lease the former 2,500-square-foot store, located on a quarter-acre at the southeast corner of Riechert and Grant avenues, just north of the Millworks development.

The Novato location was the third one Ted and Esther deVries opened after they started All Star in 1962 and the company's smallest. The industry average rental yard size is two acres.

Today under ownership by the second and third generation, the company has 65 employees in 10 locations, including four in the North Bay, three in the Sacramento area and stores in Chico, Placerville and Reno, Nev.

Company sales are expected to be $9 million this year, down from the peak of $16 million in 2005. That has mirrored sales of rental companies statewide heavily involved residential and commercial construction, according to Ken deVries, who also is past president and current executive committee chairman of the California Rental Association. Equipment rentals in the state are 50 percent lower than three years ago.

"We're having to reinvent ourselves back to the way we were before the boom," he said. "There probably will be fewer forklifts and tractors associated with breaking new ground and more maintenance equipment like high-reach scissor and boom lifts and for painting, washing and renovating."

Yet because of a party-rental noncompete clause in Hertz's Novato lease resulting from the 1998 acquisition of Big 4 Rents, All Star had to give up that inventory and services, according to Mr. deVries.

"We're hoping we can increase the equipment rental to make up for party rentals," he said. "Party rental was a smaller part of the business and more labor-intensive."

For more information, call 707-429-3884 or visit www.allstarrents.com.