Startup provides bartenders, rustic rentals for events
Lash Bartenders opened doors in January, already talking expansion
Casey St. John started with an idea: create an agency for renting out bartenders and wait staff to help fill the gaps and work special events at area bars and restaurants.
“When I thought of it, I was just going to do bartending and help other restaurants in the peak season,” the St. Leonard woman said. “That’s what our business was going to be — and we were going to rent out bars. The new style is two whiskey barrels and a rustic door on top, and that’s your bar. We were going to rent out 12 different types of bars. Then [we realized] there’s nothing around here where you can rent this stuff.”
That’s when she landed on Lash Bartenders and Rustic Wedding Collection, a rental shop now quickly expanding into a 4,000-square-foot building in St. Leonard, which will also have a hall for small events. And she’s already eyeing space in North Beach for expansion.
“In the future, we’re planning to do another location over in [North Beach], within eight months. With the hall and the whole, same setup so people from Annapolis can come to that location and get things,” St. John said.
She officially launched the business Jan. 15 of this year and has filled the St. Leonard showroom with examples of vintage and rustic furniture and decorations — old barn doors, antique milk jugs, whiskey barrels, lamps, rustic chandeliers, baskets, trunks, figurines, etc.
“You can just rent bartenders for special events, or just rent things that you need for your wedding so you don’t have to go and buy them,” St. John said. “Stuff gets extremely pricey; then you buy it, what are you going to do with it after your wedding? Who wants to buy 20 different crates.”
While she has found a lot of her offerings at area vintage stores such as The Mermaids Cottage in Port Republic, Simply Vintage of Huntingtown, GypsyFaire in Lothian and various yard sales, some of the furniture is custom made in France.
“The couches — the real unique stuff — come from Europe, from France,” she said. “I have dealers that I work with over there, and they ship them over for me.”
Currently she has one half of the building at 4865 St. Leonard Road and is waiting on permits to begin taking over the second half.
“That’s going to be more showroom space, but it’s going to be staged for people to rent it out for small gatherings,” she said of the 2,400-squarefoot space. “It will be staged with linens and tables for baby showers, graduations … after funeral [get-togethers], small gatherings. We don’t do any of the food but they’re welcome to bring a caterer. If they want a bar, we’ll bartend and do a cash bar. We’re working on our [state] liquor license for that.”
St. John was a manager at Vera’s Beach Club until recently where she earned experience in event planning, as well as bartending. And many of the 15 or so people working for her as demand arises are people she’s worked with over the years. They work part-time as needed and keep their current jobs, for now.
“It was time for me to move on from Vera’s. I was there for 11 years. I needed something of my own,” she said. “It was just a perfect opportunity and time to just do it. I was a little scared at first — it was a big change — but everything just started falling into place. It worked out perfectly.”
Longtime friend, Jenna Murphy of St. Leonard, has been helping get the business off the ground as a sales manager.
“I’ve worked with Casey for many years. We were friends in high school, actually,” Murphy said. “We’ve talked about it in the past — going into restaurants to help out with bartending.”
Murphy, along with handling sales, does a bit of everything for the new business — tend bar, wait tables, set up events, handle rentals, etc. While she currently works at a jewelry store and has applied to enter the nursing program at the College of Southern Maryland, she’s hoping Lash Bartender and Rustic Wedding Collection grows enough to become a full-time gig.
“It’s becoming a big thing. It’s really taking off,” Murphy said. “If this kicks up into fulltime, nursing school will definitely be on the back burner.”
St. John said the number of event contracts and rentals has already exceeded 20 — “We have quite a few pending contracts over in St. Mary’s” — and continues to increase as word gets out about the rental business. The first fully-staged wedding is scheduled for April 27, but she’s already rented out furniture for baby and bridal showers — Victorian style chairs and couches that are used for photographs and a place for the bride or mother to open gifts. Wedding and engagement photographers — as well as those looking to fill out their portfolios — have also shown interest in renting items for staging photographs.
“We’ve actually gotten a lot of photographers that want to rent out our furniture for pictures — engagement pictures or any kind of photos, really. It’s opened up so many different opportunities,” St. John said.
For the curious, the name of the business is in honor of St. John’s boyfriend, Jacob Lash, who died two and a half years ago shortly before they were to marry — “the wedding rings were made.” “So, the business is in honor of him and his daughter, who I am very close to,” she said.
“This is a big industry around here,” St. John said of weddings in the Southern Maryland region, including Prince George’s County and Annapolis. “We found out, very quickly, that there’s a market for this. For one, there’s no one around here, in the county, that does it. There’s no one in Charles County or in Annapolis that does what we do, but there is a company in D.C. That’s the closest place we’ve heard about. That’s the only place that has what we have to offer, right now.”
For more information, go to http://lashbartenderswaitstaff.com/.
Casey St. John opened Lash Bartenders and Rustic Wedding Collection in January to provide rentals for weddings and events throughout Southern Maryland.
Lash Bartenders and Rustic Wedding Collection is building a collection of rustic, vintage and Victorian “props” for weddings and events.