Rent Control

If it’s available, Got That has got that

by Phyl Newbeck

gotthat0518In 2005, after years in sales for various companies, Scott Guay opened Got That Rental & Sales, dealing in equipment rental, hardware, and supplies for homeowners and contractors.

When Scott Guay chose the name Got That Rental & Sales Inc. for his new business in 2005, he realized many people might think it was a chain. He was hesitant to put a place name on his Essex Junction storefront in case he expanded or moved, and he refused to stick his own name on the shop. “Got that” was the response he used to give at Essex Equipment when people called to inquire about inventory, so he thought it was appropriate.

Guay decided to personalize his sign with a logo and chose a cartoon image of a goofy looking worker using a power drill. The picture elicits a lot of comments, and once a family pulled into the parking lot in an effort to settle a bet on whether the man in the picture was sticking out his tongue or chewing bubble gum. It’s the latter.

As a former ball player with a love of the Boston Red Sox, Guay uses the word “team” when he talks about his employees, whom he sees as an investment. Spending as much time as he does at his Colchester Road location, he says, he wants to work with people who can form a good team. He pays them what he deems a fair wage, and if they want health insurance, he pays 100 percent. As a result, some members of his staff have been with him for eight years or more. “You’re only as good as your employees,” he says, “and if you’re not listening to them, you’re throwing money away.”

Brian Russin started working for Guay a year after he opened his doors. “I started out in the shop, pressure-washing equipment and twisting wrenches when I was 17.” When one of Guay’s drivers left, Russin began making deliveries and was soon assigned counter work, as well. “Scott is a good guy,” Russin says. “He has an open-door policy and he’s always willing to help.”

Guay grew up in South Burlington. His Colchester-raised father met his Pennsylvania-born mother when he served in the Navy, and she moved to Vermont to be with him. At one point, The elder Guay owned Champlain Lanes with his cousin, but left to pursue other interests when he joined the staff at General Electric.

Guay has fond memories of playing baseball at South Burlington High School and had considered owning a sporting goods business — a goal he’s glad he didn’t fulfill thanks to the decline in brick-and-mortar stores with those wares. He earned his degree in business management from Champlain College.

His first job was as a dishwasher at the Rotisserie, but after four weeks he left to become an assistant manager at The Tower Restaurant in South Burlington. Those jobs were enough to convince him that, despite his love of cooking, he did not want to work in the food industry. Guay credits a stint at Upstage Shoe Store at University Mall with teaching him sales. “I was very shy,” he recalls. “I liked people but they had to come to me. The job made me learn to sell things a little bit more.”

Dakin Farm had a shop at Champlain Mill and Guay ran that store for a while, followed by a position at Wood’s CRW on Williston Road for Ernie Gilbert, a man so influential in Guay’s life that he has his late mentor’s name plate and picture on his office wall. Guay credits Gilbert as being the first person he knew to combine rental equipment with supplies. When Gilbert went out on his own and opened a business called First Choice, he hired Guay, who worked as part of the management team for eight years.

When First Choice was bought out, Guay moved to Essex Equipment and helped that company grow. But after three years, he jumped at the opportunity to join his friend Mike Tatro, who was looking to get out of the housing industry, and go into business for himself. With Tatro’s financial backing and Guay’s experience in the field, they opened Got That Rental & Sales Inc. in October 2005.

The company currently has one full-time driver, three employees who drive and work the counter, three technicians, and one sales rep who makes on-site visits. “I don’t want guys to think, ‘Ugh, I have to go to work,’ when their alarm goes off,” he says. “We all have to work, so we might as well have fun doing it.”

Got That has grown every year and has doubled in size since opening, but, Guay says, it’s starting to plateau due to running out of space. “I don’t know if I want to get bigger,” he says. “I’m not greedy. If everyone is happy and having fun, that’s good enough for me.”

Ray Charbonneau at Bread Loaf Construction in Middlebury likes the way Guay operates so much that he followed him to Got That from his previous business locations. “Usually when I call him it means I’m in trouble and I need something in a hurry,” Charbonneau says. “He goes beyond what anybody else you deal with would do, and that’s so important in this business. He’s brought in stuff that he didn’t have in stock just to keep me rolling. That’s a rare commodity.”

Roughly 70 percent of the company’s customers are contractors, and while Guay likes working with homeowners, he says, it’s nice to be able to deal with people who are familiar with the equipment. Most of the contractors have accounts with the store and some travel from as far as Middlebury, Barre, Stowe, and Swanton for rentals and supplies. Roughly 60 percent of Got That’s income is from rental equipment. Items bought at the shop are repaired on-site, and although he doesn’t like to say no to customers who walk in the door, Guay gives precedence to those who purchased from him rather than from chain stores.

Brian Kerr of Sweeney & Belisle, a contracting firm in Jeffersonville, started renting from Guay when he was working at Essex Equipment, so it was only natural that he switched to Got That when Guay opened his store. “He provides excellent service and the shop has a really friendly atmosphere,” Kerr says. “We rent a lot of things from them and buy some parts, as well. They’re very accommodating with deliveries, and if they don’t have the product we want, they make an effort to find it.”

Guay knows he can’t compete with big corporations but says the good news is, many of those aren’t looking to expand into a state with such a small population base. While online companies are able to offer parts cheaper, it is often more convenient for people to shop where they are renting equipment.

Guay has been experimenting with new items to sell and mentions smoker grills. “We like to think outside the box so we have some oddball stuff,” he says, adding, “They’re popular among deer hunters and guys who like to barbecue.” Some of his more specialized rentals include a spider lift and three high-horsepower stump grinders. “I’m always listening to people,” he says. “If you think there’s a market for a new product, talk to me.” He also has a few “impulse purchase” items at the cash register like honey and jam made by small local vendors.

Guay lives in Essex with his wife, Denise, who works for the Vermont Lottery; two pugs; and one French bulldog. He notes that Got That is dog friendly and many canines rush to the counter because they know they can find treats there.

For now, he says, his life revolves around the business. “Once I got into the working world, I became boring,” he says. “I get up at 5 a.m. and I’m at work by 6:15. I get home by 6 p.m., see my dogs, and cook.”

In the winter he sometimes gets to leave at 3 p.m., giving him time to work out at his home gym, but the construction season is just too busy. “The goose that lays the golden egg needs to stay healthy,” he says. Even during annual vacations to the Caribbean with Denise, Guay takes business calls and stays in touch with the company.

“It’s a seasonal business, but it can get stressful between now and winter,” he says. “By the time I get home I’m exhausted. Ten hours answering the phone and sometimes biting your tongue can be stressful. It’s rewarding, but it can be more tiring than a more physical job.”

Guay is proud of the fact that Got That is always willing to help out with community projects. The company donates rental equipment to the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Special Olympics, and the Travis Roy Foundation, which uses Got That’s light towers for its tournament at Little Fenway. “When people come in with a request I always want to say yes,” he says. “I think local businesses owe it to the community to give back.”

For Guay, the knowledge that Got That can help contractors and homeowners with their projects makes all the long hours of work worthwhile. “We will always keep the human element and local feeling for our customers as they walk through the door,” he says, and notes that sometimes with a little help, even a big project can become an enjoyable and memorable experience. •