Next time you attend a wedding, bar mitzvah or corporate event, take a good look at the fabrics adorning your table. You may be dining on linens that have been sourced, sewn and stockpiled at a close-knit business in Davie.
Working behind the scenes, Over the Top Rental Linens creates colorful tablecloths, chair sashes, napkins and the like, and lends them to event planners, florists, country clubs and hotel catering directors nationwide and internationally.
Brides and others can also rent linens directly by booking an appointment to visit the showroom, finger the fabrics and make their choices.
“What makes us different is that we are a specialty linen rental company,” said General Manager Rob Glassman. “And we’re only focused on one thing.”
Over the Top linens have decorated every occasion, from bar mitzvahs in Pinecrest and Sweet 16s in Boca Raton to weddings in Hawaii and corporate meetings in Switzerland, said co-owners and ex-spouses, Nancy Davis, 54, president and Alan Eingold, 55, vice president. Both grew up in Miami-Dade County.
And despite a slowdown and downsizing of corporate and social events during the recession, the company has found a way to keep growing.
“We said, to get the market up, we have to get into other markets,” Eingold said. So, Over the Top branched out more nationwide, shipping its linens to varied events. That balanced its main business in South Florida, which is heaviest from October to June.
“We found ways to increase sales in the off-season,” Eingold said.
This summer, Over the Top opened a warehouse and showroom in Orlando to further expand its events business in Central Florida. Next, the company plans to build up its business on Florida’s West Coast, where it has just hired a salesperson. It also supplements linens for small rental companies nationwide.
In Davie, Over the Top’s 25,000 square-foot facility is like a hotel laundry, fashion designer cutting and sewing operation and massive storage room, all in one.
At the far end, bins of dirty linens arrive to be checked and treated for stains; then they’re washed, dried and threaded through flat ironing machines and steam tunnels until they’re smooth.
Linens arrive in the company’s 10 vans or are shipped from all over the world. Over the Top sends duffle bags and shipping labels for the return of the dirty linens.
The laundry room’s crew can handle as much as 500 pounds an hour, Eingold said. Quality control specialists check for holes, open seams or stubborn stains, to be re-treated.
After the linens pass inspection, they are packaged in plastic and stored in storage bay after storage bay, organized by item, fabric type, size and color. It’s a kaleidoscope of color: pinks, yellows, corals, greens, blues, purples and golds in every shade. Plus prints, beads, sequins and metallics.
“Every event has a different color scheme, so we have to accommodate them,” said Beth Glassman, director of marketing.
Beyond storage is a cutting and sewing room where reams of fabric are laid out and cut, then sewn into tablecloths and toppers of every size, along with chair covers, sashes and napkins. The company’s 1,200 fabric choices are sourced from the United States as well as Turkey, China, India, South Korea and Taiwan. Materials include polyester, linen, satin, taffeta and organza. About 100 new fabrics are added each year, while others are retired, Rob Glassman said.
More than 500 fabrics are displayed in the showroom, where swatch books with all 1,200 choices can also be studied. Customers can also view fabrics on the company’s website, OverTheTopInc.com.
White, ivory and black remain the most popular colors, the executives said. But the latest fabric trends for events are animal prints, geometric prints, shiny metallics, lace, neon colors, velvet flocking and anything with sequins.
“We’re in the fashion business,” Eingold said.
Over the Top’s business started small, but has grown exponentially over the past two decades.
Sales have posted double-digit gains each year, with the exception of 2009 to 2010 when they dropped 12 percent, Eingold said.
This year, sales are projected to reach a record of nearly $5 million, he said. Overall, about 80 percent of the firm’s business is wholesale and 20 percent is retail.
Over the Top’s roots are tied to a company formerly named Special Settings, which had been owned by two local women before Eingold and Davis bought it in 1989.
Eingold and Davis’s father had owned and operated a dry cleaning business, and Special Settings had been a client.
“They approached me and said ‘Do you want to buy the company,” Davis, a former paralegal, recalled. She bought it with a former partner. The two partners and Eingold, “learned the ropes,” running the business out of their homes, and started a new company called Over the Top. In 1993, Davis’s partner bought her out of Special Settings, and Davis and Eingold took on Over the Top, running it out of their home, filling their garage with racks of linens.
“When we had big parties, we sent the kids out of town to focus on the parties,” said Eingold, who was married to Davis from 1980 to 2007, and whose children are now 23 and 27.
Soon, they moved into a mini-warehouse, and Eingold left the dry cleaning business.
“I saw there was a future in this event business,” he said.
They began with bar and bat mitzvahs, and word spread quickly.
“We realized that if we hooked up with catering directors, we could have a steady business, because they are the ones that put on events,” Eingold said.
Today, wholesale clients include hotels, country clubs, caterers, event production companies, florists and destination management companies that put on conventions, said Rob Glassman, who married Beth Glassman last year. The two met at Over the Top when Beth started her job in 2008.
Overall, the company works on hundreds of events a week, Rob Glassman said.
Scott Schaefer, director of meetings and special events at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami, has used Over the Top for 18 years, for weddings, corporate events and fundraisers, at three South Florida hotels where he has worked.
Recently, for example, Over the Top custom-made metallic linens for a 450-person corporate event with a beach theme at the Ritz-Carlton, when the corporate client, which Schaefer declined to name, wanted fabric that looked like shimmery sand.
“They are definitely my go-to company for linen, any tabletop or chair cover needs,” he said.
Individuals can also make an appointment and rent linens, with no minimum order.
“We’re happy to rent a tablecloth and two napkins for a backyard dinner,” Rob Glassman said.
Rental prices generally begin at 50 cents to $3 for a napkin, and $7 to $200 or more for a tablecloth.
Last year, Parkland Mayor Michael Udine and his wife used Over the Top for dark blue table and chair linens for the bar mitzvah of their two sons, who are 11 months apart. The event was held at the Boca Raton Resort & Club.
“They were fantastic,” Udine said. “The room looked gorgeous and they were just a pleasure to deal with.”
Over the Top, which operates seven days a week, prides itself on fast turnarounds. Once, the company had to order fabric from New York on a Tuesday, make it into tablecloths, and get it to the Bahamas for an event on a Wednesday night, Eingold said.
Without a doubt, Miami is among the top markets in the country for event production, along with New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas, said Christi Bick, president of the South Florida chapter of the National Association for Catering and Events (NACE).
Moreover, while event production slowed and events downsized during the recession, the industry is definitely now on the rise again, Bick said.
And linens are an important part of an event, she said.
“It’s one of the least expensive ways to make the most impact,” Bick said. “It can completely change the look of a space just by putting a different colored linen in it.”