Party ready

The three Cartwright sisters may have separate passions and personalities, but  luckily for the family business, their differences converge under one glorious tent (rental company, that is). 

Today, Jill Weis, Tracey Sherwood and Laura Dalrymple are the “daughters” at the helm of Cartwright & Daughters Tent and Party Rentals based in Mahopac and serving Westchester, Fairfield, Dutchess, Putnam, Orange and Litchfield counties.

Their varied expertise plus an uncanny synergy help the sisters strike the perfect formula for a family business: separate plus together equals longevity. “It’s great because we get to see each other every day,” says Weis, acknowledging the romantic ideal may have its limits. “You also have family dynamics.”

Parents Jerry and Pam Cartwright started the company in 1981 as Cartwright Catering, a business with a few rental tents. Eventually everyone got involved. 

“Tracey would wait tables, I would help on the buffet line and Laura was in the playpen in the back room,” Weis says. “There were many times when dad dropped us off to school in the company truck. And we couldn’t get in trouble after school because we always had to report to work.” 

The catering part of the company was gradually phased out and the rental side grew rapidly along with the sisters. Over the years, they learned the ins and outs of the business and helped the company evolve.

In the early ’90s, Jerry Cartwright added “Daughters” to the company name to honor his girls’ work and increasing involvement.

“Dad is still active but has definitely stepped back,” Weis says. “And mom was very instrumental when the business started.” But as the sisters took on responsibility then began raising families of their own, Pam Cartwright’s role advanced. “Mom’s an important person that keeps it going for us,” Weis says. “She helped us with watching the kids and allowed us to be (working) moms.” And it gave them the ability to hone their expertise.

“We all tried every position,” Dalrymple says. “And we evolved to what best suits our personality. Jill’s a great people person, Tracey likes to get in there with whatever power tools she can and I like to say I have an organized chaos. I’m good with numbers.”

So now, much like their tents, the women’s positions in the company are planted firmly in the ground.

“Each one of us has our own department,” says Weis, who runs the wholesale marketing and tabletop division. Sherwood is warehouse manager and loadmaster and Dalrymple is in charge of dispatching and accounting.

There’s a lot of pieces that have to come together but Jerry Cartwright had a rule that continues to keep the family close and business strong. “We cannot talk about work outside of work,” Weis says.

And that extends to the larger family. “We’ve got employees that have been with us for 25 years,” Weis says. “They’re family.” 

Out of the 45 employees they have right now, some have been with the company since the sisters were children and some started when they were also as young as 16. The sisters feel they grew up together in the business. But it doesn’t constrain their leadership roles.

“There’s a lot of respect for us,” Weis says. “They know we will get our hands dirty.” We’re all in this together.” Often Sherwood is happy to load up cars on her own. “Because I know what to do,” she says.

After all these years, their knowledge and experience extend to any event conceivable. Weis says the current rental equipment aesthetic trends toward the farm-to-table style. “Vintage and boho is starting to trickle in,” Weis says. “People love bringing nature in. Nobody’s banging down our door for sequined linens.”

The business has five-star reviews on both The Knot and Wedding Wire.

“That’s all Jill,” Sherwood says.

“I want to make sure it’s perfect,” Weis says. “You’re really building your own venue. You have to be in constant communication (with the client and other vendors). Our customers value that. If you add a soup to your menu and we don’t know, you’re not going to have bowls.”

Above all, the sisters pride themselves most on their customer service and say their staff’s personal touches show. “They all care a lot,” Weis says. That feeling of familial camaraderie and deep-rooted experience translates to their clients. “People say we are the nicest on the phone to work with,” Weis says.

Next, the family has plans for expansion both physically and generationally. “Our kids are working in (the company) now, too,” Weis says. “It will be the third generation.” And there will be exciting things for them to do. “We’re going to be opening a tented venue location.” 

Kindred Creeks is in the town of Poughquag, seven miles from their warehouse in Patterson. The property includes 80 acres with streams, a barn and rolling green fields. “The streams are stunning,” Weis says, who was inspired by a spot where the water meets and two streams become one. She sees it as a perfect metaphor for marriage. Plans are progressing quickly and the family will soon be able to start booking events for 2020. The new property gives the women a chance to honor their children like their parents honored them. 

“We’re implementing all the grandkids,” Dalrymple says. “Each grandkid is going to have something (at Kindred Creeks) named for them.” Examples so far are Tucker’s Trail and Jake’s Jalopy.

“And we’ve got plans to branch out,” Weis says. With nine grandchildren so far, that’s a lot of branches on the Cartwright family tree.

For more visit rentaparty.com.

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