Business spotlight: From champagne fountains to backhoes, General Rental has it all

David C. Wilcox II is the owner of General Rental Center, 1029 Louisville Road. In June the business, which rents most everything, will celebrate its 43rd anniversary. (Photo by Phil Case)

“We rent everything from champagne fountains to backhoes — and most things in between,” said David Wilcox II, owner of General Rental Center, 1029 Louisville Road. He opened his business in 1977 and operated from a building on Wilkinson Blvd., moving to the present location in 1983.

Wilcox got his start from his father, David Sr., who died in 2015.

“He worked for a company that distributed equipment to dealers,” Wilcox said of his father. The logical step from that is for the dealer — like General Rental — to rent to the consumer.

“My dad had been distributing farm equipment to rental companies but found payment was seasonal and sporadic. “One day he provided something for a general rental company and got a check immediately,” Wilcox said. “He realized that kind of rental was more stable!”

Wilcox said his company has done well over the years and that, by and large, Frankfort has good people who rent, use the equipment and return it as they found it.

“Sometimes you’ll have someone complain they rented a piece of equipment and didn’t get to the job or the weather didn’t cooperate. We understand but explain those are things out of our control. Most are understanding.

“Basically, all we’re selling is time — time for the customer to use our equipment.”

Wilcox got started when he responded to an ad in the Lexington Herald-Leader from a company that wanted someone to start a rental business.

“The problem was rental space was so expensive in Lexington, so he asked them about another location, like Frankfort. They said Frankfort was open, so I came here and started with Richard Wilson, of Wilson Tax Service, and his father. Wilson knew where there was reasonable property to rent.”

Wilcox says Butch Christopher owned the property on Wilkinson where the first store was located. “He made the rent reasonable and we were able to survive.”

How it operates

“We’re an independent rental company,” Wilcox said. “It’s pretty simple: we buy the equipment and rent it out. Everything we have here is for sale, too.”

Rental rates are market driven. “It may be different here than what it is in Lexington or Louisville, for instance. Most of our business comes from Frankfort and Franklin County with some from surrounding counties.”

Wilcox says his company compares rates with other locations and establishes them for Frankfort. Business ebbs and flows with the needs of the community and the season.

Some rental companies specialize, he says.

“Whayne Supply in Lexington rents what we call ‘heavy iron’ to contractors — things like bulldozers and backhoes. My friend Terry Bryant, also in Lexington, rents exclusively for special events like weddings.”

The name of Wilcox’s company, “General” Rental, says it all since they rent some of both along with most all small tools like roto-tillers, sanders, floor cleaners — most everything, thus “champagne fountains to backhoes.”

Good employees

Like any business, Wilcox says good employees are the key.

“I couldn’t do it without them. They have given me the liberty to serve on the state and national boards of our association and as a director.

“Larry Wilhoite has been with me all but three years since he was 15,” Wilcox said. “Those three years he was in the military.

“Debbie Fitzgerald is retired from Commonwealth Credit Union and works part time as does Shane Butcher who is a retired state worker. Leighton Ramsey is also part of the team.”

The key is for employees to meet and work well with the public — from the rental counter to loading in the yard. “My folks  are knowledgeable about what we have and how to use it.”

He says he has no current plans to retire but may “transition out sometime. I don’t fish or play golf, I still have the energy to run the company and it’s how I make a living.”

For now, he’s staying.

General Rental is open from 7:30-5 Monday through Friday and from 8 until noon on Saturday. The business is closed on Sundays.

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