Rent-A-Tool to Close April 25 After 63 Years in Business

By Sue Ellen Woodcock

One of Revere’s oldest family businesses will be closing April 25.

Rent -a -Tool on North Shore Road has been an institution for the last 63 years in Revere, supplying generators, trucks, light towers, blowers, a Bobcat and just about any other piece of equipment you can think of. At one point you could even go for a helicopter ride.

“The business is a casualty of war,” joked owner Steve Williams, who decided a year ago to sell. “The land is too valuable to run a business here.”

The 7-acre parcel and 31,000 square foot brick office and warehouse has been sold to Altrra, of Philadelphia, a property development company, for an undisclosed amount. It is his understanding that they will be leasing out the property. The property in the warehouse is being liquidated with over 5,000 pieces to be sold, including an old boarding ramp for airplanes at Hanscom Field. One item sold was the ship’s horn that stood outside the shop for years. It came from the USS United States. Now it will reside with a collector in Texas who purchased it for $8,000.

But the history of Rent-a-Tool goes far beyond renting out machinery. The business began when uncle Mel Williams opened it on Revere Street before. Then the business moved to 777 North Shore Road where an old Texaco gas station once operated in the 1950s. Part of the old garage can still be seen in the form of a warehouse wall.

Mel Williams came from the era of World War II veterans pursuing the American Dream. He had leftover tools after working on a large boat and decided to go into the equipment rental business. Mel Williams sharpened skates, made keys and rented out saws.

Mel Williams was a collector, especially of anything historic or having to do with the SS United States, a luxury liner built in 1952. He had also collected two Nash Metropolitan cars nicely stored in the warehouse.

One piece of equipment Steve Williams is looking for the perfect home for is the Cyclone Rollercoaster Trailer worth about $100,000. He’d like to work out a deal with the city for it, he said.

“I don’t want to junk it. I want to put it in the best hands,” Steve Williams said.

Looking back, Steve Williams said they have had a good run. He came to work for his uncle when he was in junior high school.

“My family goes back over 100 years in Revere,” Steve Williams said.

Closing down does bring out his sentimental feelings about the business and Revere. He pulled out a photograph of the Williams Hot Dog Stand, a business his family ran for years on Revere Beach in the 1930s near where the St. George condominiums are today.

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