Dana Murphy and Jean Pirtle have complementary businesses, i.e., event equipment rentals and event planning, and they both “occupy the same space,” the former site of Americ Rentals, located on Hwy 72. While they are not business partners in the usual sense, they recently came together to put on a beautiful, and, for Athens, an unusual event held in the ballroom of Athens State University. It was a fundraiser for Jean’s son, Derek, who has his sights set on becoming a part of the U.S. Olympic Team in 2014. All three of these folks have an interesting tale in their own right, and I’ll start with Derek’s first.
He is, by all accounts, defying the odds. He is in his 20s, and only became interested in his sport, the skeleton, (which is like the luge, but on a tiny, one man sled with no sides,) in 2010. Nobody decides to become an Olympic athlete in their 20s! He has been to South America on a mission trip, has a Master’s degree, a strong relationship with Christ, and has chosen a crazily dangerous sport in which to minister. He is currently in the top 10 of the skeleton racers, and while it will take a miracle to make the team, it is an undeniable miracle that he has come so far, so fast. May our city get behind this guy, and may he go on to become our first Olympian!
Close to 75 people came to the December 18th fundraiser held in Derek’s honor, and it was decked out in red, white and blue for the United States, then set with rectangular clear glass plates that made the place sparkle in the candlelight. Derek’s mom, Jean, told me, “People can’t begin to imagine how expensive it is to become an Olympian,” and she and her husband are doing all they can to help their son reach his goal, and she is doing so in style.
When not backing her son on his Olympic journey, Jean Pirtle helps families through an event that is also beautiful, and that would be a wedding. She has assembled several quality vendors, who range from florists, photographers and bakers, to a dentist and an antique car rental service. When a prospective client comes to Southern Bridal Parlor, there are several display tables that showcase the vendors’ services, and after clients peruse the displays at their own leisure, they can discuss the particulars in a sunny, comfortable drawing room with Miss Jean. The bride and groom can also meet with each individual vendor, if they choose, or have Jean be their representative.
Jean doesn’t only do weddings. She has coordinated birthday celebrations, various functions for companies and corporations, and in addition to planning, has an extensive background in floral design.
Now for Dana Murphy, of Event Rental Pros. I met Dana when I first began to work for Athens Now, and her story is also quintessentially American and spunky. She learned the event rental business while under the pressure of being a single mom. Unlike Jean, she had nothing in her background from which to in order to learn her trade, it was trial and error, and a baptism by fire.
She launched out into the position of being a business owner, for a number of reasons, the dearest to her heart being her desire “to be an example to my daughter.” She has beautiful equipment, and is building a reputation for having supplies that can help a bride or event planner put together something that is unique. She told me that recently she looked back over the last year by reviewing pictures of various events, mostly weddings, and “not one looked alike.”
She has every color of napkin, tablecloth and runner, a “Cinderella carriage” that is lighted and displays a wedding cake, wooden and metal wedding arches, and, something that is so charming it makes me wish I was a little girl again—a large square tea party table that is the right height for children, with beautiful linens to cover it, and wire-backed ice cream parlor chairs that surround the table. To illustrate how far Dana will go to make sure her equipment is in perfect condition each time it is rented, the wooden wedding arches are repainted after every event, just to prevent there being even the slightest mark on them.
What I so appreciate about these women, besides how hard I have seen them both work, and how much they care about their clients, is that they don’t care if the event is large or small, casual or formal. They will do what it takes to make sure “your day,” whether it’s a wedding, a shower, or a fundraiser for a young man who is determined to represent the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympics, is truly special.
They are located at:
119 Hwy 72 E, Athens, AL 35611
Event Rental Pros hours are Mon-Fri, 9-5, Sat 9-3
Southern Bridal Salon’s hours are Mon, Wed and Fri, 9-5, Tue and Thur, 11-7, Sat 9-3
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner