Startup pro­vides bar­tenders, rus­tic rentals for events

Lash Bar­tenders opened doors in Jan­uary, al­ready talk­ing ex­pan­sion

Maryland Independent - - Business - By DAR­WIN WEIGEL dweigel@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @somd_bized­i­tor

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/.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY DAR­WIN WEIGEL

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.

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