Business

Cedar Rapids events service finds a way during pandemic, while another auctions off it assests

R&D Events opens as Spielman's liquidates assets

Kaelyn and Troy Albaugh, owners of R&D Events , look at table linens available for auction at Spielman's Event Services,
Kaelyn and Troy Albaugh, owners of R&D Events , look at table linens available for auction at Spielman’s Event Services, 1380 Stoney Point Rd. SW, in southwest Cedar Rapids Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Monday, June 1, 2020. The couple opened their own events rental business at the beginning of March. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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As a 30-year-old provider of chairs, tables, staging, decorations, linens and other items for events is liquidating its inventory, a new event services company — hoping to fill that niche — awaits an end to COVID-19 restrictions.

Spielman’s Event Services closed on May 1 in the wake of the state banning large gatherings such as weddings, graduation ceremonies and parties, and corporate events.

“We had long-standing corporate customers who were looking forward to their summer events,” said Jan Spielman, president and owner of the company her late husband, Mark, launched in 1990.

“When COVID-19 hit, it took away all the events that were planned for March until 2021. It was a huge impact on our company because that’s what we do for a living.”

Backes Auctioneer and Realty has begun holding five auctions with online bidding to sell Spielman’s assets. Rodney Backes, vice president of the Raymond-based company, describes the auctions as “massive” in scale, adding that a sixth auction date may be needed to finish the sale.

“We are still finding stuff on top on pallets, so I don’t know what we’re going to get into,” Backes said.

The same COVID-19 restrictions that prompted the shutdown of Spielman’s also are affecting R&D Event Services of Cedar Rapids, launched by Kaelyn and Troy Albaugh on March 6.

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“Troy worked for Mark Spielman for 20-plus years,” Kaelyn said. “We started in October 2019 trying to buy Spielman’s, but unfortunately we just could not come to an agreement.

“We ended that process at the end of February (2020). Two days later, Troy woke up, couldn’t sleep and decided to put together a business plan to go out on our own.”

Bankers Trust in Cedar Rapids provided financial backing for the couple’s business venture.

“The bank was able to get the underwriting done within a day,” Troy said. “We needed to be up and going for the graduation season. That was going to be our huge hitter.”

R&D Event Services, named for their daughters Ryla and Dani, had just started to receive bookings for graduation, prom parties and other events. Then on March 17, Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a state of public health disaster emergency that prohibited large gatherings to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We had two weeks to get some bookings,” Kaelyn said. “A graduation party that was booked during that time has been rescheduled in August. We were contacted to do a large event here in Cedar Rapids, but that ended up becoming a virtual event.

“We are really pushing micro-weddings and micro-graduation parties.”

“We are trying to do it safely where people can control their own distancing,” Troy said. “We are seeing similar trends around the country as a substitute for the normal large gatherings and events.”

Kaelyn said five couples from Kennedy High School recently held a micro-prom.

“Ten seniors rented a 10-by-10 tent outside with 10 chairs and two tables,” she said. “They put their radio on one table for music and their food on the other table. They had a blast.”

Kaelyn said she and Troy are convinced that they ultimately will be successful.

“We have the drive,” she said. “It’s just how long is it going to take that’s the question.”

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If the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted by the fall, Kaelyn hopes to book holiday parties — individual and corporate. December, January and February typically are slow months for large events, she said.

The Albaughs submitted bids for items in the Spielman’s auctions. They are hoping to acquire assets to build their inventory as they grow their business.

“We have been taking days off (from their regular employment) to sit in front of our computer and bid,” Kaelyn said.

“There is so much that was accumulated over 30 years in business,” Troy said. “It was really a legacy business.”

The Albaughs plan eventually to have a retail storefront operation in addition to a warehouse filled with chairs, dishes, tables, tents, warmers and other equipment.

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