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Rental company celebrates 30 years

Don Cruikshank and Mike Redmond started AV Equipment Rental in 1978

Posted: May 29, 2008 1:37 a.m.
Updated: July 30, 2008 5:04 a.m.

Don Cruikshank, owner of AV Equipment Rentals, sits atop one of the businesses skip-loaders available for rent. The company recently celebrated its 30-year anniversary.

 
Decades ago, Don Cruikshank was approached by Mike Redmond about an idea for a business that circled around renting equipment.

"We kind of looked at it, and it was viable and we were young," Cruikshank said.

Being in their early 20s, the two evaluated their options and decided to give it a try.

"If we all fall flat on our face, we'll just pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and go forward," he said.

Despite the bumps in the road, AV Equipment Rental took form and over the years, expanded to become a successful company.

"It turned out to be a really good deal for us," he said.

Thirty years later, Cruikshank is celebrating the milestone of his Newhall business and is realizing that the keys to a strong business are building a strong customer base, enjoying a person's job and staying true to the employees.

The beginning
AV Equipment Rental, which stands for All Valley Equipment Rental, began in 1978 when Cruikshank and business partner Redmond bought out the equipment supply aspect of what is now AV Party Rental.

After a few moves in the Newhall area, AV Equipment Rental found its current home on Railroad Avenue (formerly San Fernando Road).

Initially, the company was focused on supplying homeowners with the supplies they needed.

"We had one broken down tractor and one dilapidated forklift," he said. "It wasn't a lot to hang your hat on. Our focus was really the homeowner."

But with a changing Santa Clarita Valley, a shift was made to more heavy equipment in the early 1990s.

"We weren't satisfied with just sitting behind the counter," he said as a reason for getting interested in construction.

The growth of the Santa Clarita Valley would also create an opportunity for AV Equipment Rental to grow.

"In what had the potential to turn out like the San Fernando Valley, we were fortunate to be involved in a community where Newhall Land and Farming has a master plan and directed development in a positive way," he said.

With a balance between industrial, commercial and homeowner expansion, Cruikshank said the company was able to establish a "broad base of business."

Although the slow economy of the early 1990s hurt business, the 1994 Northridge earthquake created a chance for the business to bounce back.

"As tragic as it was for a lot of people, for us it also spawned a lot of activity," he said.

Keys to success

Years later, the company was also able to establish different divisions, including a spin off business focused on trash containers.

"It's a good portion of our business," he said.

Along with the local area's growth as a reason for the company's success, Cruikshank believes staying true to his own goals helped AV Equipment Rental thrive.

"We never strayed from knowing our end game," he said.

That game involves remaining focused on the customers and understanding what their needs have been.

"The customer really drives what we do," he said.

He recalled one instance in 1995 when the company was establishing its showroom. Cruikshank said at the beginning, there was nothing on the shelves.

As customers came in, employees asked everyone, "What do you want on the shelves?"

The result was giving customers what they wanted.

Cruikshank considers his retail store to be home to various odds and ends, ranging from measuring wheels to upside down paint, rarely available elsewhere.

Additionally, Cruikshank said it's important to watch expenses and never overstaff.

A family of employees

While building outside contacts are crucial to maintaining the business, Cruikshank believes his company, which employees on average 25 to 30 workers, has created a family of its own.

"Most of these guys have been with me a long time" he said.

One of those long-time employees has been Fidel Espinoza, who has been working since the early 1990s.

"It's a really great company to work for," Espinoza said.

But the friendships formed at AV Equipment Rental go beyond the workplace.

Randy Dickinson worked at the company during its early beginnings.

For 20 years, Dickinson said he worked "everything," ranging from duties in the yard to the counter and even mechanics garage.

Even though Dickinson left the company, he said it still has a "mom and pop atmosphere" even as it has grown in size.

"There's always an AV spirit that keeps customers coming," he said. "Even employees like myself, they always still keep in close contact."

And Dickinson is still using what he learned from his two decades at AV Equipment Rental as he established his own business.

"Everything that I know now in my business I learned there," he said.

AV Equipment Rental is located at 24933 Railroad Ave. in Newhall.

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