Soirée Mainstay: Baker Party Rentals
Here at I Heart Costa Mesa, we think every day spent in our beautiful city is reason to celebrate – and we’re in good company! Today’s featured Costa Mesans are truly the life of the party… as in, you’d be hard-pressed to throw one without them.
They are so interwoven into the festivity fabric of our city, chances are you’ve already attended at least one party (and likely many, many more) outfitted by Baker Party Rentals. Family-owned and operated by the Mantyla family, Baker recently celebrated 35 years in the business. That’s a whole lot of birthdays and bar mitzvahs!
We sat down with husband-and-wife Co-Founders, Tom and Cathy Mantyla – along with their daughter, Michelle, and son, Michael, who now run the business with their parents – to hear the story of how their small-business beginning grew into the pillar of the party industry they’ve become today.
Baker Party Rentals: Family Owned And Operated For 35 Years, In Costa Mesa, CA
When it comes to parties and events, Baker Party Rentals carries absolutely everything from the expected – like tables, chairs, dishware, linens, flatware, stages, dance floors, canopies and the like – along with the unexpected, like wine barrels, sno-cone machines, pancake-batter dispensers, fireplaces and bullhorns – even a donut wall.
“We carry pretty much anything as far as event-rental equipment goes,” said Tom Mantyla, President of Baker Party Rentals. “Even if you were to set up your party in an old, empty parking lot, it would still look great. We can bring in flooring, we can put up tents and temporary walls, we can outfit a satellite kitchen with cooktops, stoves and ovens. No one would know it was a parking lot.
“Over the years, we’ve also expanded into more diversified lines so your party items look and feel less like rentals. For example, we have over 20 different china collections to choose from. We carry the full range of varietal-specific Riedel stemware – and other more sophisticated lines and premium brands.
“We have a very big selection of table linens to cover surfaces of all shapes and sizes. And now we are starting to carry rustic, wooden tables and chairs, more like you’d find in a home setting. Those don’t require linens at all.”
The Mantyla Family, Tom, Michelle, Cathy and Michael, in the Baker Street Facility, Costa Mesa
Today’s inventory may be modern and sizable, but the origins of Baker Party Rentals are far more modest, going back decades to 1968.
“That was the year my parents first purchased Baker Equipment Rentals, right next door to where we are now,” said Cathy Mantyla, Tom’s wife and CFO of Baker Party Rentals. “It already had the name – because it was located on Baker Street – so my parents just kept it. After they bought the business, my dad gradually bought up the surrounding land.
“During that time period, this section here was a self-serve car wash owned by my grandfather. Eventually, the car wash started aging and my grandfather decided he didn’t want to invest time and money to rebuild it. So my family decided to tear it down and put something new in its place.
“In 1981, Tom and I got married. That summer, my dad, Tony Beringer, offered us the opportunity to take the old car-wash lot and turn it into a party rental company – as a kind of expansion of Baker Equipment Rentals. We were young and naive, so we said, ‘Sure!’
“Thankfully, my dad had the foresight to keep the party rental business separate from the equipment rental. Not many people were doing that. Most places you’d have a punch fountain sitting next to a chainsaw, which wasn’t very good for business. I have to give my dad credit for having the wisdom to let each entity be its own thing.”
So the newlyweds rolled up their sleeves and set to work building a party rental business from the ground up. Other than a college job Tom had as a banquet busboy, the young couple had absolutely no experience with party planning. Were they intimidated?
“Actually, I was really excited,” said Tom. “It was a chance to build something ourselves, not have to work for a traditional boss. Although my father-in-law definitely made sure we were committed to seeing the business through before he invested in getting it off the ground.”
“At the time, my dad was already running the equipment rental business and he also had a heavy-haul transportation company,” said Cathy. “He was very busy and didn’t want to get drawn into the day-to-day of a party business. He left operations up to us – or more specifically, to Tom. I was already doing the bookwork for both businesses and was primarily offsite. So in those early days, Tom was doing everything by himself.”
You Dream It, Baker Delivers It: Endless Options For Parties Of All Styles And Sizes
These days, Tom has lots of help.
The business has grown to become one of the most well-respected party rental companies in Orange County – and staff has grown commensurate with inventory. Two of the valued additions to the Baker Party Rentals’ team just happen to be the Mantylas’ own children: Michelle and Michael.
The kids were raised in the “upper birds” neighborhood of Mesa Verde in Costa Mesa. They have fond memories of playing with the other kids in the neighborhood and enjoying the annual Easter egg hunt at Tanager Park.
“Every day after school, we’d come to the store and do our homework while Mom and Dad worked,” shared Michael Mantyla, who now serves as both Outside Sales Rep and Marketing Manager. “Summers we would hang out in the back office and play computer games. Coming to work with my parents was an everyday activity for us.
“Then as we got older – maybe high-school age – we started to get more involved in the business. Going out on deliveries, helping do little fix-its, then taking on bigger jobs at the holidays when we got busy.
“College was the same, really. Over summer and winter break, we’d be back here helping out wherever we were needed. Then after graduation, I just naturally made the transition back here. It took several years, but I figured out that I really wanted to work in the showroom. I went after it and eventually got promoted to this job, but not until I had earned my ticket to be here.”
Michael’s sister, Michelle Leader, has her own memories of growing up in the family business.
“As the story goes, I was three days old when Mom first brought me to work with her,” said Michelle. “We kids always had a little office set up for us. We had a little-kid couch where we could take naps. We had a little fridge with bagels and strawberry cream cheese and fish sticks.
“After school, we’d finish our homework here and then, by dinnertime, we’d all head home to eat a family dinner together.”
Nowadays, Michelle handles the flow of stock as Inventory Manager at Baker Party Rentals.
“My most important job is making sure we have all the correct inventory ready for upcoming orders,” said Michelle. “It can get really complicated because we’re not a normal business where you sell something once and it leaves forever. At Baker, items go out then come back in, over and over again.
“I run a lot of reports so we know specifically what we need on any given day. We know we need 1,000 of this wine glass and 800 of that goblet, etc. I am always spot checking to make sure everything is on point with orders.”
Michael Mantyla Putting the “Art” in Party Rentals
As for the beautifully-appointed showroom and elegant displays at Baker Party Rentals? Well, we have the Mantyla men to thank for that.
“I personally really enjoy doing the accounting side of the business,” said Cathy. “I like systems and procedures and keeping track of price lists and inventory. I love balancing the books down to the last penny – it’s very satisfying for me. But Tom and Michael, they are the creative ones. Michael definitely inherited that trait from his father.”
“As a child I was very much into architecture and drawing up house plans,” said Tom. “One of my distinct memories is figuring out how to draw houses in 3-D perspective as a preschooler. I replicated our house in drawings over and over again.
“Then as I got older, I always took a lot of art classes in school, illustration and painting. So now, I love the creative bent of things in the event industry – it’s really matured into this art form of beautiful tablescapes and sophisticated floral design and centerpieces. That’s always been the fun thing for me.”
“Anything design related or creative is what drives me,” added Michael. “I’ve always been very visual, so designing the showroom, doing all our social media, working with clients on really inspired events – that’s what makes me love what I do.
“I always played with LEGOs as a kid. I’d build entire cities connected by BRIO trains. It took me a while to figure out how to turn that creativity into a skill for showroom design. Like, ‘If you put these two colors together, it looks good. Then you add a plate, and what if we try this flower instead?’ It just starting building and building until I eventually discovered I really do have an eye for all of this.”
Design Duo: Father-And-Son Team, Michael and Tom Mantyla
The large showroom is one of the best aspects of the Baker Party Rentals experience. If you aren’t sure how your event should look – or you have no idea what is out there in terms of options – the showroom at 1151 Baker Street is a great place to start.
“There are a lot of people who aren’t sure of what they want until they see it,” said Cathy. “So if they walk in and see what we have in the showroom, it can inspire the rest of their event. Providing those visuals for our clients – where they can touch the samples of every single linen we carry, or see Tom and Michael’s designs and saying, ‘How do I get my table to look just like that?’ – it means they end up happier. The experience is better for our customers because they get so much more than just the rentals.”
“We will also work with party planners and florists to create mockups of their tablescapes back in our warehouse,” said Tom. “They bring their clients over to see the tables all set and put together with linens and dishware and florals.
“It’s very, very helpful – particularly for weddings – to have the clients sign off on the look of the table before the event. That way, we don’t show up with truckloads of items on the wedding day and they’re thinking, ‘Oh, that’s smaller and rounder than I thought it would be.’ When we can work that out ahead of time, everyone is much happier with the outcomes.”
It’s that kind of mindfulness and thoughtful attention to detail that has made Baker Party Rentals a mainstay in Costa Mesa.
“People come to us because they are planning something pleasant,” said Tom. “Aside from the occasional memorial service, but even those are a celebration of one’s life. A business like this has impact. We are invited into people’s lives at the most significant moments, those important life stages.
“Being part of this community for as long as we have, we are now doing the wedding rentals for brides who, as little girls, had our small tables and chairs at their birthday parties. That’s a wonderful feeling.”
Thank You, Baker Party Rentals, For Sharing Your Story With I Heart Costa Mesa!
“This city has been part of my whole life,” said Cathy. “I graduated from Estancia High School myself. We raised our family here. It’s a great place to raise your kids. We used to love riding our bikes from Mesa Verde down to the beach.
“Costa Mesa is the heart of Orange County. You have access to so many things. We’re not too far from the beach. We’re not too far from Disneyland. We’re right in the middle of everything.”
“One of my favorite things is that we have so many innovative food and drink places,” said Michael. “My favorite places to go and eat – those unique, individual, one-off restaurants – the majority of them are in Costa Mesa. This city really has its own identity. The people here have a strong sense of who they are. There’s a lot of individuality here and that’s really cool.”
“Costa Mesa is a destination for people,” said Tom. “A destination for shopping, for dining, for the arts. This community has everything. You could truly live your whole life never leaving the city and you’d have everything you needed – from your car, your clothing, your lawnmower, your night on the town – it’s all within city limits.”
“Even an awesome party rental company!” added Michelle with a laugh. “But really, what I like about Costa Mesa is that it feels ‘local’ compared to other cities. I don’t know how to put it into words, other than to say that for being in such a big, busy part of the world – Costa Mesa still just has a nice, small-town vibe to it.” ♥
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