SoWal People: Chuck Hinson is the Man Behind Many SoWal Events
May 9, 2012 by Joyce Owen
Chuck Hinson has two great businesses: in one he arranges concerts, festivals and fundraisers; the other rents the essentials required to hold events. It’s a pretty sweet combination, but it wasn’t always that way.
Hilltop Productions puts on more than 40 events every year and, for the most part, Chuck has done them long enough that he says it is fairly routine. Whether it’s the West Indies Market, Route 30A Antique and Vintage Car Show or a wine festival, “I go to the mail box and get the checks.”
While nothing is that simple, with years of experience, Chuck has regular vendors that return to his events. However, like most companies that promoted events; Chuck rented equipment from other providers. His second business occurred when his accountant noticed the company’s biggest expense was the rental of tents, tables and chairs.
“He dared me to start a rental company,” Chuck remembers.
There was just one problem; he needed a financial backer. Fortunately, he met someone who fit that bill – not just someone with the money – but a guy with finance and business experience.
Jeff McDowell, the “M” in H & M Tent and Party Rentals they created, embraced the concept, with a plan for two or three weddings a month.
With the burgeoning beach wedding business, they now do 50 to 60 weddings monthly, and charity events and parties for all occasions. Having a few tents, tables and chairs does not create a rental company though. They had to build inventory.
Shopping meant poking through the 127 corridor’s “World’s Longest Yard Sale,” finding deals at the Seaside yard sale and buying off Craig’s List. They have also traveled overseas seeking items that aren’t found at other rental companies. Knowing what’s the next hot thing seems to be Jeff’s forte.
“He has the eye to know what to buy,” Chuck says.
Purchasing a warehouse in South Walton became a necessity when their storage sheds were packed and a stack of chairs almost fell over on a client. After all that shopping, there was more inventory than space. With the 10,000 square-foot building, there’s room to set up displays and to organize.
Chuck says having the warehouse, a place where clients can come to see the merchandise, has also given his team a renewed sense of pride. It’s a hot sweaty job and Chuck credits his team, the ones behind the scene, that make the difference.
“There’s no reality show for rental companies,” Chuck jokes, “but if it wasn’t for us, there wouldn’t be ‘the pretty.’”
During the wedding seasons, April through June and September through November, he employs up to 10 people. In the off-season, that number drops to four. While H & M does repeat business – they’ve even done a second wedding for one bride – each one is one-of-a-kind.
Chuck and Jeff say brides know what they want, whether it’s something from a friend’s wedding or from a wedding planning site online.
“We’ve done three sisters,” Chuck says. “They all used us, but didn’t want to do the same thing.”
That’s where H & M makes the difference. Everyone has tents; it’s the oak whiskey barrels, an old door built by Chuck’s great grandfather for a barn or the antique lighting fixtures that are unique.
Those items and thousands of others, await the client that has a vision, but can’t find the right supplier. Chuck and Jeff know they’ve done the right thing, gathering all these items when a bride-to-be shouts, “Oh my God, I’ve finally found what I’m looking for.”