Cecil Hortman and his wife, Marge, set out from South Dakota in 1955. Their plans were to escape the harsh winters of Oneida and open a bowling alley in California.
Somewhere along the way, they met Sam Greenberg,* owner of Sam’s U-Drive, a rental store in Van Nuys, California. Sam made the rental business look like an attractive and lucrative endeavor and planted the seed.
Cecil had fallen in love with Utah and its beauty on his trip to California. Being a business-minded man and a hunting enthusiast, he saw an opportunity to rent to the outdoorsman. He and Marge began renting rifles for deer season, ice skates and snowshoes in the winter, and wheelbarrows and tillers for the summer.
The first Ace Rents yard was located in Provo next to a nursery, because Cecil thought a rental yard at that location would attract gardeners. He was right.
Before long, the Hortmans developed a sense of what the community needed—hospital beds, forklifts, cement mixers, you name it. If they didn’t own it, they acquired it according to the needs of the public. At one time, even Marge’s washer and dryer and their children’s beds were part of the rental inventory!
By 1956 they had outgrown the Provo location and moved to Orem. One mechanic was added to the work force, making it three employees. When their kids were not in school, you would find them working beside their parents, learning responsibility, work ethic and the ins and outs of the rental business.
Cecil and Marge were early members of the ARA (American Rental Association) and were one of a handful of rental companies in the nation. The ARA was established in 1955 and there were only 21 members. When Cecil joined the association, there were 76. There are more than 9,400 members worldwide today.
The needs of Orem changed with the scenery. They opened the store when the region was essentially orchards and farms. With the development of Geneva Steel came a sudden growth in the construction of homes, shopping, businesses, factories, theatres, freeways, roads and churches, each demanding state of the art equipment and access to tools that were too expensive to own.
Once again, acquiring equipment to supply the needs of the building community, Ace Rents, Inc. took its place in meeting the demands of the growing city.
In the late ‘60s, Cecil hired the future owners of Ace Rents: his son Barry Hortman and son-in-law, Sidney Paskett. Cecil’s health began to deteriorate and his dependency on Sid and Barry grew. In 1979 Cecil and Marge sold the business to their children and their spouses.
Three more locations were added. They opened the Lindon yard in 1980, Provo in 1991, and Spanish Fork store in 1998. With this growth their rental inventory increased substantially requiring the addition of their independent parts department.
Skilled mechanics and technicians became an integral part of the business to keep up with the ever-changing technology. Continued education and training became mandatory to acquire dealer status and certification with such suppliers as Honda, Wacker-Neuson, Multiquip, Bosch, Sumner, Genie, and Doosan, to name a few.
The key figures of Ace Rents figured out early that all the equipment in the world is nothing without service. This quality became the endeavor behind every rental. While some local rental stores became a part of a larger chain, Ace Rents was determined to remain slow and steady and not outgrow its values—in other words, not get too big to offer everyone the exceptional service they had come to expect.
Still maintaining a family business, Ace Rents changed hands in 2000 when daughter Miki and her husband, Sidney Paskett, purchased the business. Their passion for the rental business was a major reason for their success. That same kind of passion is found in their children, grandchildren, and long-term employees. Some of them have been at Ace Rents for more than 30 years.
Improvement and growth is an ongoing quest. In regards to future stores and expansion, Cecil’s great-grandson, Nick Last, says his dream is “to go above and beyond.”
Ace Rents continues to adapt in the 21st century with the help of great-grandson, Nathan Last, who is guiding them through web design and computer technology. One of Miki’s favorite sayings is “It’s not a problem. It’s a challenge and an opportunity.”
Today, the Ace Rents family owns and operates their four stores with the experience of four generations. Alongside Sid and Miki , their daughter Chaunte’, son-in-law Craig Last, and grandson Nick Last continue the tradition, focused on retaining the value, integrity, and service that Marge and Cecil established and perfected nearly sixty years ago.
*Affectionately known as the “Granddaddy of rental” by the ARA