If you've been to an area golf tournament or Charlotte festival, you've probably sat in one of Dan Hooks' chairs.
He owns 25,000 in about 13 varieties – along with 4,500 tables.
The 41-year-old is co-owner of Party Reflections Inc., a 50-year-old family enterprise that provides tents, dance floors, tablecloths, champaign fountains, bars and other items for the Wachovia Championship, Food Lion Speed Street and countless weddings, conventions, corporate barbecues and festivals around the region.
“We're sort of the unseen background to a lot of things,” Hooks said.
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The business has grown steadily as the Charlotte-area festival scene has exploded over the years, along with the region's population.
It began in 1958 when now-81-year-old Wayne Hooks, then a BellSouth manager, decided to quit the corporate world.
So he bought about 50 tables and 500 chairs from a widow whose firefighter husband had dabbled in rentals. Until 1983, it was known simply as Chair & Equipment Rental and Sales Inc., which today is a separately owned business that leases medical equipment, including wheelchairs and hospital beds
The Observer spoke with Dan Hooks about the rental company and the Charlotte-area party and festival scene. Questions and comments were edited for brevity and clarity.
Q. How hectic is the wedding season?
We're just coming out of it. It's quite hectic from April to June, and then it starts again from September. We just had a wedding in Chapel Hill that was a one-week setup for a doctor who was a large donor to the university.
Q. What are the most expensive events?
The larger events, golf tournaments and this past wedding was one of them, are about $100,000. Sometimes we have to travel. We do the AT&T National Championship golf tournament in Washington. D.C., and the Traveler's Championship in Connecticut.
Q. What's the strangest or more unexpected item you rent?
Event furniture is what we've most recently gotten into. Couches, love seats, ottomans. We're doing a lot of preconvention gatherings or corporate lounge areas.
Q. How about the strangest or oddest event?
We have a lot of odd requests. People want us to put these new pool covers on. You can walk on them, dance on them. Sometimes it comes down to where people want to put tents – over trees and over walls, or on steep hills and you have to build up a floor.
Q. How many people in a year sit in your chairs?
It's 150,000, at least. We have 10,000 of one particular kind, the black folding chair for graduations and other events. Those are rented about 12 times a year. We do the Davidson College graduation. We have about 300 tents.
Q. Are you happy working in this industry?
I grew up in it for 25 years, and I really look forward to the business growing with Charlotte. We are trying to bring new things to Charlotte like tents with glass doors and glass windows. You can make a little ballroom now wherever you want.