From Pizza to Small Business Ownership – Samantha and Doug Christopherson on their business, Bainbridge Event Rentals

If you’re planning an event on Bainbridge Island or the Kitsap Peninsula, the go-to place for all your needs is Bainbridge Event Rentals (BER), which was founded in 2019, but for owners Samantha and Doug Christopherson, who purchased BER in 2022, their path to small business ownership goes back even further.

Doug and Samantha ChristophersonSamantha, who is originally from Redlands in Southern California, came to Bainbridge in 2014 on a bit of whim to visit close family friends, and like most people who visit the Pacific Northwest and especially Bainbridge Island, she fell in love with the area and has been here ever since. A few short weeks after she arrived on the island, she took a job with Westside Pizza, and soon became heavily involved in their growth transition, working her way up to general manager. This experience would not only pave the way to the service industry career she now has, but it also introduced her to Doug.

Doug, who has lived on Bainbridge since he was an infant and is a 2005 BHS graduate, already had extensive experience in the food industry, having worked at various restaurants, such as Salmon Canyon Cafe, The Loft, Burrata Bistro, Lola’s Tacos (previously in downtown Poulsbo), as well as three different Westside Pizza locations on the island and in Poulsbo and Silverdale. Although the couple didn’t know it when they first met, their combined experiences would be the catalyst to a new career and business.

In 2017, the couple was approached by their friend, Sara Suseyi, who had begun building the brand and physical truck, for her new venture, Kurdish Kitchen Food Truck, earlier that year. Food trucks were a relatively new concept on the island and Sara was in need of seasoned food industry personnel to help her navigate and operate the business. Samantha and Doug fit the bill and their local knowledge was very helpful in connecting with businesses that could host the truck, such as Bainbridge Brewing, Island Fitness, Exotic Aquatics and the Day Road Business Park, as well as participating in annual festivities including BI Pride and Taste of Lynwood.

Samantha and Doug - 2023 BI Chamber of Commerce Business Awards
Samantha and Doug – 2023 BI Chamber of Commerce Business Awards

The couple married in 2018 and continued working with Kurdish Kitchen, which led to a friendship with Rob and Brianna Frease (Rob is co-owner of Bainbridge Brewing and Brianna owns Frease Catering). Brianna would eventually buy All Seasons Rentals on Miller Road from Sherry Eckert (John and Sherry Eckert were the previous owners of the recently shuttered Bainbridge Rental, which was next door to All Seasons). Brianna decided to re-brand All Seasons, giving it the new name of Bainbridge Event Rentals. By 2019, she was in need of an operations manager and Samantha was pregnant with their daughter, Lucy and wanted to pivot industries and saw the position as an opportunity to move in a new direction.

When the pandemic hit in 2020 and business came to a screeching halt, Samantha used that time to bond with their infant daughter, who’d arrived the same year. As Covid restrictions started to ease and business picked up, Doug came on as the “muscle”, handling much of the event equipment loading, unloading and set up. By 2021, business was bouncing back and Brianna was focusing more on catering, while Samantha and Doug were fully running BER. In the summer of 2022, both Samantha and Doug felt they were ready to take on a larger stake in the business, and as it turned out, Brianna was ready to sell. Samantha and Doug officially closed on the BER purchase in November of 2022.

Bainbridge Event Rental categories - image courtesy of BER websiteBER already provided everything you could possibly need to host a fully catered gathering for both large and small groups, including a full a compliment of glassware, dishware, serving ware, linens, tables and chairs, ovens, coolers, even hangers and coat wracks. However, with the dream of owning their own business now a reality, Samantha and Doug decided to bring in new elements to enhance the services they already provided.

To add a bit of fun and whimsy to their inventory of event related offerings, they partnered with Seattle photographer, Kip Beelman, who owned The Lightning Booth, an open-air photo booth (similar to the traditional photo booth, but even better!). The Lightning Booth offers multiple backgrounds and print-templates, and can accommodate anywhere from two to 10-plus people (even more if the guests are creative with their staging…the current record is 24 people in the booth). The booth is versatile enough to compliment whatever event your hosting including birthdays, backyard weddings, corporate events… really any event that you want to add a bit of fun and pizazz too. This was such a hit with their clients, that Samantha and Doug subsequently bought The Lighting Booth and offer it as an add-on to their existing event planning packages, or as a stand-alone a la carte option.

Bouncy Houses Bainbridge Event RentalsThey also added two bouncy houses to their inventory; the Magic Castle bouncer and Tiki Island, an interactive inflatable with a huge bouncing area, a climbing ramp and double racing slide. As much fun as The Lightning Booth and bouncy houses are, Samantha is most excited about the full-service event planning and event coordination component, which is a recent addition to their services.

The Lightning Booth Bainbridge Event RentalsSamantha offers a hands-on approach to event planning. She and her team are there from the very beginning to help you design your event layout and venue, culinary options, execution and oversite of the timeline, including vendor coordination, and set-up and teardown. In addition, she offers vendor and timeline charts with all applicable details, such as contact information, remaining balances/deposits, and details surrounding the timeline of services, and key activities coordination within your event to guests to provide direction from activity to activity, such as cake cutting, first dances, toasts, gift set up/removal, and so forth to ensure your guests have the best experience possible.

“A big part of my job is guiding our clients through the planning and execution of some of the most important milestones of their lives. It brings me so much pride to know that I can bring my insights to the table and help them create the event of their dreams,” Samantha shared.

Although these services are available for any conceivable event, large and small, Samantha admits that her favorite events to plan are intimate and elegant backyard and private home events, such as weddings, holiday and birthday parties. Many of the above options are also available in a la carte services.

Samantha and Doug pride themselves in working with as many local vendors and venues as possible (see below for a list of some of their local vendors) to provide the highest quality of catering, floral arrangements, photography services, transportation, music and baked goods. They’ve worked with local venues such as the rooftop garden at Island Gateway, BHS for graduation seating, Islandwood and more recently, they partnered with the Chamber of Commerce to provide bouncy houses for last year’s Grand Old 4th of July Kid’s Zone. They’ve also assisted in various fundraising events for Island School, Hyla School and Montessori Country School.

“Our business brings a lot of joy to our community,” Doug said. “It’s fulfilling to see the relief and happiness from our clients when I deliver and pick up rentals. Whether folks are planning something large or small, events are usually a source of celebration and I love being a part of that.”

A few of BER’s local vendors include Frease Catering, Fig and Spice Catering, Wanderlust Catering, Finders Keepers Catering, Flowering Around Florist, Garden Party Florist, Kip Beelman Photography, A Wild Light Photography, Tour Bainbridge, Music Masters, Bella Bella Bakery, Blackbird Bakery, and Sweet Dahlia Bakery.

BICoC - TIWB*Images courtesy of Samantha Christopherson, BER website, and TIWB

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