Rental: How did you first get into the rental industry?
Judy Fischgold: In the summer of 2014, I met Jim Pedulla, the company’s CEO and owner, and we’ve been together ever since. My background is in agriculture, real estate and retail. Jim was a general contractor who lent his tools to his friends. They would break them or not return them, so he started renting them out.
Altra has grown from a small shop with two employees to 20,000 square meters and 23 employees. Jim asked me to work for the company in spring 2017. We added 16,000 square feet of space this year and opened our new state-of-the-art showroom.
Rental: Can you give us an insight into your current company?
fish gold: We are a hardware store celebrating our 25th anniversary this year. We constantly have sales reps saying they’ve never seen anything like our store. We do sales, rentals, service, parts, lawn and garden, concrete supplies, work shoes and clothing. Our newest project is our new shop-in-shop department for work shoes and safety clothing. We call it the Shoe Lodge and stock well over 200 styles of work boots, safety clothing, personal care items and accessories.
We have a diverse customer base that includes contractors, municipalities, farms, masons, carpenters, utilities, mechanics and serious DIY enthusiasts. We only stock major brands, contractor quality equipment and supplies. We are a complete one stop shop where you can rent anything from a wallpaper steamer to a telescopic handler, and you can buy things like construction equipment and supplies, concrete supplies, power tools, fasteners, gardening tools, socks and more.
Rental: What have been some of the challenges and achievements you’ve had over the years in business?
fish gold: One of the biggest challenges right now is keeping up with all the constant price increases and surcharges on almost all products and freight, as well as the slower delivery times for new equipment and parts.
Our other recent challenge over the past two years has been finding qualified employees with the right skills during the pandemic. Higher wages and benefits were also a consideration for us during this time, so we’re paying up to 30 percent more per employee and introducing more robust benefits packages to keep up with employee retention. New York state labor laws and regulations are constantly changing, allowing employees more paid vacation time, impacting coverage, scheduling and higher per-employee costs.
In addition, we carry a very large retail inventory that competes with the internet and direct-to-consumer vendors. We are always on our toes and focus on good purchasing practices.
Rental: What would you say is your favorite part of the job?
fish gold: My favorite part of the job is working with our team to continuously improve our culture, learn about our industry and grow our business. We care about each other.
I have also enjoyed being a member of the ARA NY Board of Directors. It opened my eyes to the various industry standards and the amazing tools that are available to us from ARA on a national and global level, and gave me the opportunity to meet colleagues and vendors from across the country with whom I share challenges and… can share successes. Attending the leadership conference in November was such a privilege and I learned so much. I also learned from my new colleagues that there are many women in the rental business and I can support all of our efforts through them Women in Rental initiative. As a rental company we value all that is offered through the ARA and we are proud to be a member of this world class organization.
Last but not least, my favorite part of my workday is bringing our golden retriever, Morrie, and our black lab, Asher, to work every day. Our employees and customers enjoy their company immensely!
Rental: What is your most used business technology or tool and why is it important to your business?
fish gold: We are currently reviewing new rental software that includes rental equipment conditions. It’s a real challenge for us as we have a very large retail division alongside our rentals division and have found that strong rentals software does not support our retail needs but strong retail software does not support our rentals side. We are currently on board with SmartEquip and look forward to getting this working for parts ordering as we have a strong parts business and service department.
Rental: OK, fun question! What is your favorite hobby?
My favorite hobby is turning old objects into art! Like taking antique costume jewelry and turning it into wearable, modern pieces. Or make bracelets out of old cufflinks. Or even turn your grandmother’s baby pearls into earrings you can wear every day. I also really enjoy remodeling old furniture. Painting old furniture and lamps is always fun!
Also, we live on Lake Ontario where I can collect amazing driftwood and build pencil trees for the holidays. I used to be the owner of a wholesale florist business and I like to keep my hands in nature. It grounds me.