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VIProfile: Terry Turner



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By Gay Lyons

“I needed a job.”

That’s how Terry Turner, owner of All Occasions Party Rentals, explains how he got into the event rental business.

The Clinton native worked at Hewgley’s Music while in college, not because he was a music aficionado, but, you guessed it, because he needed a job. It’s where he met his wife Regina, an artist, who was a regular customer. The couple have been married 27 years and have two sons. Both Jared, age 20 and a junior at UT majoring in business analytics, and Jackson, age 16 and a high school sophomore, now work part-time at All Occasions.

When Hewgley’s closed, Terry went to a company called Party Rentals as a temporary employee during Halloween season because, yep, he needed a job. Terry hit it off with owner Chuck Rothstein, who asked him to stay on.

Fast forward: Chuck sold Party Rentals, and Terry went to work for Rent X. He did well as regional manager, selling tools, equipment and party rentals, but “my heart was always in event party rentals.”

“At the age of 35, I went out on my own and opened All Occasions,” says Terry. “I purchased the old Rent X--a ‘hostile takeover,’ you might say--and built the company with the help of Chuck Rothstein, who helped me get started, taught me the industry and is still my business partner today. Most partnerships don’t last that long.”

“It’s a business you can’t do unless you’re passionate about it,” says Terry. “You don’t have to be crazy, but it helps. Some weekends we have 100 events. To the client, their event is the most important thing they’ve got going on. They need to feel it’s as important to us.

“When you can’t take care of your customer, you will certainly fail. Knoxville is a big small town. You have to treat people that way. If you think it’s a big city and people aren’t going to talk about you, you have lost your mind.”

“When the recession hit in 2008, I had my first adventure in managing a business when things aren’t going well,” says Terry. “Private events didn’t go away, but losing corporate clients was big. I became a better manager during that time. It took 90 days to figure out what’s going on, 90 days to come up with a plan and 90 days to implement it.

“We still bought equipment; we still paid debt down. That’s when we got into niches: our sofas, higher end linens, expanded lighting, more design services. We tried to really dig into the needs of the customer, rather than just rent them stuff.”

In 2012, All Occasions branched out to meet customers’ gameday needs with “Tailgate Tennessee,” which provides tents, tables, linens and more to Vol fans headed to Neyland Stadium.

“It was a niche I had seen in other markets,” says Terry. “I got the idea at a University of Alabama game. We took the idea and made it better.

The first year we sold 72 the whole season. Now we sometimes have 85 going on in a single day in Circle Park. People hold engagement parties, bachelor parties, class reunions and birthday parties. It’s been huge.”

“We also support non-profit events as much as we can,” says Terry. “We want them to be successful. It’s the right thing to do, but it’s also a smart marketing move. We’re helping them with their events to help them raise money. We don’t operate as lean as some of our peers nationwide. They think we’re giving away too much. We try to help everyone a little bit.”

In 2016, Terry and a group of friends started the Chairman’s Club, a 501(C)3 which currently has 68 members; the goal is 100..

“The sole purpose is fellowship and giving back, “ he says. “We wanted to make it easy. We have events ranging from pop-up happy hours to parties with significant others. Every member pledges to give $1,000 annually for 10 years. One hundred percent of the money given goes to the charities we fund. We’ve been able to give substantial grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.”

According to Terry, both his sons aspire to work at All Occasions. “I’m very proud of that,” he says. “I also want to make sure that as they go through college and pursue other things they know the hours, the demands, the pressure, the stress. During the busy season, our day starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 9 p.m. I’ve done it all, from washing dishes to putting up the tents. OTJ. On The Job. You have to do it so you know it.

“At the end of the day on Saturday afternoon, you can stand back and say, “Wow, I helped do that.’ There’s a sense of completion. If you don’t have passion for it, you’ll walk away from it. You have to have people pleasing in your soul.”

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