By DANIELLE REID
New River Valley Rent-All, located at 1530 W. Main Street in Radford, is a multi-generational family business that has helped generations of NRV customers solve homeowner problems.
This month, they are celebrating 50 years of providing the public with tools, equipment and solutions for their DIY projects.
Founder and CEO, Linton Leary, said he started the family business on March 13, 1972 for two reasons. First, he and his family loved the area and wanted to stay here; and second, he and his wife, Grace, realized the community did not have this type of business and decided they were the ones to provide it.
“We had bought a house and since there was no place to rent tools, we had to buy our own tools to work on our house.”
Leary’s daughter, Phyllis Leary Newbill, recently posted an explanation on the NRV Rent-All Facebook page: “Back in 1972, my dad had this crazy dream to open up his own small business. He and Mom wanted a business of their very own that would provide tools and expertise to the community they had come to call home.”
NRV Rent-All began as the source for equipment and tool rentals but have expanded to meet the growing demands of the community. They provide tents, china, flatware and glassware, linens and consult with the customer to help them better decide what type and size of tent, canopy, the number of tables, chairs, etc. that go with an event.
“We try to make sure folks get a nice-looking setup for all types of events. Festivals, concerts, birthday parties. With COVID, people started doing more celebrations outdoors,” says Leary.
Some of their clients include setting up the stage for a bluegrass band for a venue in Riner; the Claytor Lake Summer Festival stage; the stage for the City of Radford Summer Concert Series, events at high schools, college graduations, homecomings, proms, corporate events, etc.
Leary’s B.S. in Biology from the University of Richmond and his wife’s advanced degrees in Math and Physics didn’t exactly prepare them for this type of business. But, because Leary’s father had been an architect, as a young man, Leary gained experience through helping his dad on building projects and learning to read blueprints.
His father also encouraged Leary to learn how things work by giving him a 1931 Model-A Ford car, which had to be put back together.
“My Father told me to work on it for experience, but that it would never be transporation. However, I rebuilt it and drove it for many years,” Leary said. The Model-A Ford is still a feature at the NRV Rent-All location.
Three generations of Leary’s have grown up and worked at the NRV Rent-All center in Radford. His son Dan, who retired as a Captain after 10 years of service in the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division, is the general manager.
“I was not born yet when my parents started the Rent-All center, but my crib sat behind the counter. My playground was the back shop in the Radford store. I had the most interesting jungle gym ever and grew up playing on equipment in the shop. It definitely gave me a chance to learn a lot of practical engineering skills at a very young age,” said Dan.
Dan received his B.S. in Broadcasting from Radford University and was taking classes at RU at the same time his mother, Grace, was earning her M.S. in Counselor Psychology.
As the general manager, Dan’s expertise helps him juggle many aspects of the business.
“On any given day, I may be knee deep in grease from repairing a skid loader in morning, then in the afternoon, helping a bride choose table linens and coordinate colors for her wedding.”
Dan explains “We have a lot of equipment, but more than equipment, we have solutions to help people solve their problem. Sometimes people call and ask for a certain piece of equipment, but it might not be appropriate for the job they are doing. We ask questions to help them choose the right piece of eqiupment to do the job in the most effective way.”
Leary’s son, Sam, is no longer active in the company. According to Leary, “The Virginia State Police recruited him away from me, and now he works for them maintaining communication towers and radio networks all over the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Sam received his degree from Ferrum College in Outdoor Recreation – building high rope courses, which explains why he isn’t concerned about climbing 400-foot-tall towers in his current job.
Daughter Phyllis Newbill is the Associate Director of Educational Networks working with the CENI team encouraging students to be involved in STEM. Her background includes undergraduate degrees in English and geology, a master’s in environmental and engineering geosciences, and a PhD in instructional design, plus extensive experience in a rental tool store, scout camps, and community theatre.
Dan’s son, Rob, is the third generation to work at the Rent-All company. He serves as the Tent Crew Chief, setting up tents and equipment for events. As a youngster, Rob accompanied his dad after school to help at the Rent-All shop.
“We officially hired him at age 14 so he could get a work permit. He’s been working full-time for us for six years,” says Dan.
Previous to opening NRV Rent-All, Linton Leary had served as the District Executive for the Boy Scouts which demanded travel in the Washington/Baltimore/Norfolk area, and time away from the family. He had also served active duty in Korea with the U.S. Army and Reserves attaining the rank of Lt. Col. In his spare time, he taught Biology, backpacking/recreational sports at Roanoke College by day and scuba at Virginia Tech in the evenings. He used his diving skills in Antarctica to do research, diving under 12 – 16 feet of ice.
“We are proud to be here serving the NRV community. We like helping people solve whatever problems we can, and we are planning to stick around for many years…but maybe not another 50-years,” quips Dan.