Gary Tripp’s business life has come full circle.
The owner of the Volvo Rents franchise in Lakeland, Fla., has moved back into the building in which he started an independent rental store in the late 1980s.
Formerly a manager of the John Deere dealership in central Florida, Tripp opened Southeast Rental and Leasing at 4710 Drane Field Road.
He ran that business until the Fort Lauderdale-based NationsRent came to town shopping for a Lakeland location in 1998.
The company approached Tripp, who agreed to sell his business to the large corporation, but retained ownership of the building that housed the business, thus initiating a landlord-tenant arrangement. Tripp agreed to a three-year non-compete contract.
In 2001, NationsRent filed bankruptcy and the next year, Tripp got back into the equipment rental business because he believed the market wasn’t being served.
He re-entered with Volvo Rents, a franchise unit of Volvo Construction Equipment Inc. Volvo Rents was an attractive business opportunity for Tripp because Volvo Rents’s structure gave him the backing of a world-renowned brand but the power to call the shots at the local level.
Since NationsRent occupied his building at Drane Field Road, Tripp had to lease a new space.
NationsRent eventually came out of bankruptcy, and earlier this year, Sunbelt Rentals of Charlotte, N.C., acquired the company. Recently, however, Sunbelt decided to leave the Lakeland area, which was good news for Tripp. He could get his building back.
“I’m really excited about it and feel like the Lord has his hands in the opportunity to move back in,” Tripp said. “I feel like I survived two big rental companies and here I am still surviving and getting a chance to operate a business out of the building I own.”
Large out-of-town companies have expressed an interest in buying or leasing, but he’s telling them, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Tripp wants to keep a locally owned and operated company in his building and he believes it should be his.