Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer
Tom and Betsy James started Macon Rental Company in 1979, when Tom purchased a business on East Main Street near Seays Farm & Garden Center. He had just retired from the Air Force and his wife Betsy worked as an RN at Highlands hospital. As Tom tried to get his new business up and running, he was supported by his wife’s hard work and support of the business.
“If it wasn’t for her, the business would not be here, he said.
Later Betsy worked as a wound care nurse at Britthaven and ultimately began to travel to various locations as a specialist teaching wound care techniques.
As business picked up Tom began to purchase more inventory for his store. His business increased yearly although the idea of renting instead of buying equipment was new to the area. As the building industry increased so did his fleet of rental equipment. In 1979 he brought in a line of chain saws and always had a mechanic shop associated with Macon Rental Co. He eventually purchased more commercial equipment during the building boom. He started judging chainsaw competitions during the Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Day.
Tom’s motto became “we have everything from bullfrogs to bulldozers.” He was referring to the time he helped out on “Kids Day” with a bull frog jumping contest. The town wanted to have a bullfrog jumping contest but they did not have any bullfrogs. Tom came to their rescue by supplying the bullfrogs. He went to his pond and fished out a dozen bullfrogs with one stipulation for the children to be able to use them in the contest. He wanted to return them to the pond when they were done.
In 1985, Tom relocated his business to the site where it stands today at 537 West Main Street. He attributes his success to all the support that he has received, not only from his wife, but by businesses and residents in Macon and surrounding areas. Macon Rental has been involved in many outreach projects including, Rotary Club of Franklin, Friends of the Greenway and many fundraisers in the past 40 years. Tom is proud of his good business ethic and also the fact that he sells only high quality equipment, although they do repair all makes and models.
In 2007 just before the economy tanked, the business diversified. The building industry went into decline so Macon Rental began to sell more retail power equipment along with offering service, repairs and parts. That is also the year that Tom’s daughter Amanda and son-in-law Chris Shaw moved back to Franklin to take over the business.
Chris was raised in Yorkshire, England, and he fell in love with the small community and beautiful Western North Carolina mountains. Chris and Amanda have worked diligently learning and growing with the business. “Things are always changing in the rental and power equipment world,” said Amanda, “and we have enjoyed learning the ins and outs of owning a small business.
Macon Rental Company will be celebrating its 40-year anniversary on May 10 and 11. They will be hosting an Open House offering food and prizes along with at least five raffle ticket giveaways featuring big ticket items and sales on nearly all power equipment.
Tom will be on hand to greet customers and visitors as will Chris and Amanda. The shop will open at 7 a.m., until closing on Friday and will open at 8 a.m. on Saturday for half the day. All proceeds from the raffles will go to the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 994.