ARA of Connecticut welcomes Frank and Szondy to its board of directors
By Brock Huffstutler

ARA of Connecticut welcomes Frank and Szondy to its board of directors

The ARA of Connecticut recently welcomed two event industry professionals to its board of directors: Heather Frank, sales representative with Waterford, N.Y.-based Fred’s Tents & Canopies, and Matt Szondy, operations manager, Abbey Tent & Party Rentals, Fairfield, Conn.

Frank joins the board in the role of associate member director. Succeeding Linda Tracy, also from Fred’s Tents, in the same role, Frank continues to carry the torch of encouraging event rental operator participation in state chapter events.

Heather Frank

Frank became part of the event industry seven years ago when she transitioned from a company that, at first glance, may seem entirely unrelated to tents. “I was a sales rep and customer service manager for a swimming pool manufacturer prior to starting at Fred’s Tents,” she says. “The two industries are quite similar actually; both are seasonal, and both involve vinyl and aluminum — one just happens to be in the ground, while the other is above.”

At a time when she was looking for a job closer to her home to allow greater involvement with her daughters’ high school careers, going to work for Fred’s Tents was a convenient and logical choice. “Since Fred’s Tents’ origins were in my hometown, I already had a familiarity with [owners] Fred [Tracy] and Linda. Linda and I would share manufacturing tips while I was at the pool manufacturer,” Frank says.

Linda began serving as ARA of Connecticut associate member director in 2015, and Frank was familiar with the state chapter’s activities through her involvement, but she says that on top of that, “as a sales representative, I try to attend as many of the functions that are offered. It is a great opportunity to meet new members and keep a pulse on what is going on with our customer base.”

After Linda stepped away from her long tenure with the ARA of Connecticut in 2022, Frank was eager to fill in because she sees the state chapter’s board as “an amazing group. They have been very helpful and inviting since I started. I think it was more just a matter of time before I became a member of their chapter. As a UConn Husky alumnae, and with a daughter attending Connecticut College this fall, I have always had a special affinity for this chapter.”

Frank says that through her tent-related activity across the state, she hopes to assist the ARA of Connecticut in growing the active members involved in the event rental segment during her time on the board.

Outside of the event rental and tenting world, Frank serves as the current president of trustees for her local Stillwater Public Library. “I have been involved with the library in some sort of capacity for over 15 years. It is a little gem along the Hudson River in Stillwater, N.Y.,” she says.

Szondy’s company, family-owned Abbey Tent & Party Rentals, was established in 1956 and caters exclusively to the event rental segment.

“I grew up in the business,” Szondy says. “I spent a lot of days hanging out in the office as a kid while my dad [George Szondy, owner/president] was working. When one of our old sales associates retired, she gifted me a small blue ball, a reminiscence of the times she would watch me in the office, and we would roll a ball back and forth on the carpet.”

Szondy cut his teeth in the real work of the industry around age 13, working on trucks on weekends and during the summer “to keep me out of trouble,” he says. By high school, he was working full time during summers, which brought opportunities to bring his friends into the business.

Matt Szondy

After graduating from Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y., in 2010, Szondy explored other career paths, but says he always found his way back to the family business. “While living in Ithaca, I managed a restaurant and worked with Cornell University’s Team & Leadership Department as a facilitator on their Low and High Ropes courses. I came back to Abbey from 2012-2015 before leaving to work for Losberger DeBoer U.S. as a sales rep covering Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. After a year and half of traveling and selling top-notch structures, I came back to the family business reinvigorated and with a plethora of new knowledge and ideas. I’ve spent the last six years working with my father, helping grow our business to become one of the top party rental companies in our state. I’m privileged to be able to work with our amazing and dedicated team as we continue to grow and serve our area,” he says.

Szondy says he learned of the opportunity to join the ARA of Connecticut board after receiving an email stating that volunteer leaders were wanted. As this communication followed some direct appeals to him from sitting board members over the past few years, he felt the time was right to get involved.

“I know how important it is to keep new blood flowing onto the state boards,” he says. “I’ve enjoyed many of the local events the board has put together over the years and am happy to be able to volunteer and give back to the organization. I’m excited to be a part of the team.”

Outside of the American Rental Association (ARA), Szondy has volunteered his time and energy to the Manufacturers and Tent Renters Association (MATRA). “I’ve volunteered for several MATRA shows over the years; typically working to set up the vendor booths and helping vendors find their spaces,” he says.

Brock Huffstutler

Brock HuffstutlerBrock Huffstutler

Brock Huffstutler is the regional news editor for Rental Management. He writes and edits articles for ARA’s In Your Region quarterly regional newsletters, Rental Management, Rental Pulse and other special projects. Outside of work, he enjoys biking and spending time at the few remaining vintage record stores in the region.

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