Manufacturers' representative Lew Hudson and retired rental center owner Gene Rahll were selected to be inducted into the American Rental Association Hall of Fame.
Hudson first worked in construction equipment sales in 1966 in Mississippi and, later, Texas. Hudson enjoyed the industry and in 1977 moved to Georgia to be closer to family and opened his own company Lew Hudson & Associates, a manufacturer’s business focusing on the growing equipment rental market. He expanded his territory into the Southeast and multiplied the product lines he represented. His philosophy was to learn all he could about a rental owner’s business and help guide them into new products and markets. Hudson also advised many manufacturers that came to him to sell their products to the rental industry.
He opened an office in the Atlanta area in 1980, with an inside sales department for providing customers with quick answers, a new approach for a rep company. He and his staff looked for additional ways to better serve customers, including offering marketing pieces for rental stores to use for promoting their businesses. As the company grew, Hudson moved into full-time management and his son Darrell took over his sales territory.
Today Hudson continues as CEO of Lew Hudson Sales, while Darrell is president. The company has an inside sales staff, an outside sales force of 13 and serves 17 states throughout the southeastern and southwestern U.S.
Gene Rahll began his rental industry career in 1968 in the Baltimore area, opening an A to Z Rental Center franchise. In the early 1970s, he opened his own business, ABC Rental. Rahll formed business partnerships and influenced the growth of the rental market in the Baltimore area. Two men who started by working for Rahll as teenagers -- his nephew Lee Lightner and Steve Berner – are still prominent in the rental industry. Lightner is president of ABC Equipment Rental, and Berner is president of Rabern Rental Center. Eventually Rahll oversaw the opening of nine locations for ABC in the Baltimore, and eight of the employees he helped mentor later partnered with him to start their own rental businesses. Eventually these new owners – including Lightner and Berner – purchased Rahll’s interest in the rental centers.
Rahll helped create the Maryland Rental Association in the mid-1970s – and received ARA’s Distinguished Service Award in 2009.
When Rahll and his wife, Louise, relocated to her hometown of Dalhart, Texas, near Amarillo, he noticed the area needed a better rental operation and he inspired Berner to move to Texas to open a rental business in the area, and Rabern Rentals began in 1984.
Rahll’s mentoring of young employees and helping young rental entrepreneurs to build their own business has led to a Rahll “rental family tree” of 31 rental locations still active today.
Hudson and Rahll will be inducted into the ARA HOF at the association's next Rental Show in Atlanta Feb. 22, 2016.