|Alan Shaffer in front of American Rental years ago.|
American Rental had been at 7245 Columbia Pike for nearly 30 years, says owner Eric Shaffer. The company was started by his grandfather, Wesley Shaffer, who sold it to Eric’s father, Alan, in 1985. Eric purchased the business in 2011. Another longtime business on that block, Annandale Florist, closed in December.
|The new American Rental store.|
H.Z. Retail, which purchased the building on Columbia Pike that housed American Rental and the former Sunset Grille from Burk and Herbert Bank last summer, has totally gutted the structure and plans to develop a restaurant there. The Sunset Grille closed May 31 after serving as Annandale’s premiere dive bar for more than 20 years.
Eric’s family moved to the Broyhill Crest neighborhood in Annandale when he was 6 or 7. He started helping out at American Rental while a student at Annandale High School. After graduating from George Mason University, he worked there full time. “I realized I like working with my hands and enjoy the work,” he says.
The business has evolved over the years. When his grandfather started, the store specialized in party supplies, such as chairs, tables, and dinnerware, Eric says. In the early 1980s, the focus shifted to tools and construction equipment rentals. Tools have gotten much lighter and easier to use since then, he says. In the 1980s, chain saws weighed about 45 pounds; now, they’re about 15 pounds.
|American Rental, in the middle of the building, just before it moved.|
Eric says it makes sense for homeowners to rent rather than buy equipment they don’t use that often. An aerator for lawn care, for example can be rented for $50 for four hours or $90 for the day, while a new one would cost about $2,900.
|Renovation under way|
“We used to go to Fuddrucker’s all the time as a kid,” he says. That restaurant, across the street from American Rental, was where all the youth sports leagues had their end-of season banquets, and “it was the place to hang out for teenagers.” Fuddrucker’s closed last spring, and the building was demolished last week.
Construction of a Walgreens drugstore on that site is expected to start soon. It should take seven months to get the building done, said Larry Leber, president of Upshire Realtor Advisers, which is managing the building construction. But that is probably optimistic. “Inevitably these things take longer than you thought,” he says.
|Eileen Garnett and Helen Winter walking along Columbia Pike by American Rental. The photo was scanned from a Jan. 14, 1998, Washington Post article about Annandale revitalization.|