Longtime rental owner and ARA volunteer retires from the industry
By Connie Lannan

Longtime rental owner and ARA volunteer retires from the industry

The sale of Aide Rental & Sales in South Chicago Heights, Ill., and Highland, Ind., to First Place Rental in Oswego, Ill., closes a 57-year history in the equipment and event rental industry for Terry Trusgnich and his family.

It all began back in 1965. “At that time my father, Joe, and his partner owned a Zenith television sale and repair shop in Riverdale, Ill. They looked at tool rentals and thought it would be a really good business to be in, so they bought a United Rent-All franchise and ran it out of the same building as the sales and repair shop,” Terry says.

That time will be etched forever in Terry’s memory. “I was 12 years old when they bought the rental business. I remember spending a lot of my free time as a kid cleaning rototillers and sewer rods. I stuck with it. I worked there throughout high school. After I graduated from high school in 1971, I went to one semester of college in the fall of 1971. School just wasn’t my thing. My dad had a rental store manager for the small rental business. It was just a one-man job, but this manager was not doing a very good job. I asked my dad if I could have a shot at running the rental store. He said yes, so in January of 1972 I started full time as the manager. I have been in the industry ever since,” he says.

Terry Trusgnich

While the rental operation had been a member of the American Rental Association (ARA) since 1967, Terry’s father was never that involved with the association besides going to The ARA Show™. When Terry joined the business full time, he immediately became involved with the local associations.

“When I came onboard, I jumped in and got involved with the locals with both feet because there was so much knowledge there. Rental people are wonderful folks. It was amazing to know some of those old rental operators. The street smarts they had was something to behold. I remember I became president of the ARA of Chicagoland when I was 25,” Terry says.

Throughout the years, Aide Rental & Sales grew.

“By 1975 we needed more room. We were bulging at the seams. We started looking south of our Riverdale store and looked at South Chicago Heights. We found a garden center, which the owner was looking to sell. It was a nice enough building and lot where we could store our equipment. With dad’s help — because I didn’t have credit in my own name — we bought that location and moved in 1976,” Terry recalls.

In 1977, his younger brother, Steve, joined the business full time after graduating from college. “He helped me. We kept adding onto that building. We had a lot of fun. That was back in the day where you could buy something new and count on it being paid for within the year. The ROI was good,” Terry remembers.

While the brothers focused predominantly on tool, they did have some event inventory. “We had tables, chairs, dishes, silverware, tents, roasters, big dunk tanks and the like, but party became less and less of a chunk of our business. You have to have special people who really like that area. We became more heavily invested in tools,” he says.

The business continued to grow and they started looking at expanding into the Indiana market. “We bought our Highland, Ind., store from Wilson Rentals, which was started in Homewood by a longtime rental family. We bought him out in 2000,” Terry says.

“When we bought the second store, we thought my brother-in-law, John Talaga, who joined the operation in 1982, and my sister, Cynthia Talaga, who came onboard full time in 1996, could co-manage the operations with me and my brother. It was hard to keep the consistency between the stores, so I stayed at the Highland store. My brother worked with me at that store for about 10 years and then joined my sister and her husband at the South Chicago Heights store after that,” he adds.  

Throughout this time, Terry continued to be very active in ARA. In 2009, he served on the ARA of Illinois board. Then he became involved with the national board, serving on the ARA General Tool & Equipment Shared Interest Group in 2000 and as its chair from 2001-2002. In 2011, he was elected Region Five director. From 2013-2014, he was chair of the Region Five Nominating Committee, and from 2016-2019 he served as an ARA of Indiana board member.

 “Being involved certainly helped me grow my business because I could get answers to my questions from other rental operators. Back then you had so many problems that you didn’t know how to solve, and the other rental folks would tell you. Some of the folks from the boards back then are still dear friends of mine. I know it sounds like a cliché, but you always get more from the association than you can give. I certainly felt that over the years,” Terry says.

Aide Rental & Sales in South Chicago Heights, Ill.

He also took advantage of being in an ARA peer advisory group, then known as a business advisory group, or BAG.

“I highly recommend these groups as they have done nothing but good in my book. It turned out that three of the four starters of this group were me, Beth Hoff Blackmer [president, Aspen Rent-All in Basalt, Colo., and ARA president from 2020-2021] and the late Scott Munsterman [former owner of First Place Rentals in Oswego, Ill.] We called ourselves the RAT (Rental Advisory Team) BAG. We have had so much fun and learned so much from each other. When Scott passed, one of his lead guys, Sean [Williams, now president of First Place Rentals] came into the group. He knew all of our numbers as there are no secrets in an analysis group. Over the years we had been talking and one day he said he wanted to buy me out. He knew I was looking at retirement,” Terry says.

The deal came together and the rest is history. “I always thought that I wanted to retire by the age of 70. I just turned 69, so after we got the offer, my brother, sister, her husband and I decided to retire at the same time. We are so happy to sell the business to Sean and co-owner Brian Soares. They are salt-of-the-earth people. I trust them. I like the way they run their business — like how we did but even better. If something comes up, we sit down and work it out. It has worked out well for both of us,” Terry says.

Looking back after all these years in rental, Terry remembers what made him love the industry so much. “No. 1 is if you ever got bored with your inventory, which never happened by the way, you could always find something else to rent. There is no end to what you can rent. No. 2 is that I thought it was so cool that you could ‘sell’ something on Monday, get it back on Tuesday and have the chance to sell it all again. That was pretty amazing, plus you were helping folks out. We helped so many smaller contractors and caterers do jobs they would have never been able to do before because we had the equipment they could rent. That was so neat, but the most important part was the scores of friendships I developed. It was such a wonderful industry to be in. Even if you had a competitor in the same town as you, you could call them and ask what to do about a certain situation. That is not the case in many industries. The folks in this industry are just amazing and always made it fun. I treasure those relationships,” he says.

Aide Rental & Sales in Highland, Ind.

While he is “officially retired,” Terry still has a desk at First Place Rental. “I am in the process of moving that desk home, but I haven’t moved it yet. I am not getting paid, but I am still showing up a couple of mornings a week. And Sean told me that he has my hotel room booked for the show in February,” he says, adding that he can’t wait.

Connie Lannan

Connie LannanConnie Lannan

Connie Lannan is special projects editor for Rental Management. She helps plan, coordinate, write and edit ARA’s quarterly regional newsletters, In Your Region. She also researches, writes and edits news and feature articles for Rental Management, Rental Pulse, supplements, special reports and other special projects. Outside of work, she loves to bake for others, go for walks with her husband and volunteer for her church and causes she believes in.

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