For Rockville-Based Ultimate Amusements, Delivering Fun is Serious Business
Howard Cutler gets goosebumps every year thinking about Christmas. But, for Howard, Christmas comes the week before Thanksgiving. It’s the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Expo in Orlando, Florida, and as the owner, CEO and founder of the Rockville-based Ultimate Amusements, the IAAPA is where Howard goes to find the next big thing.
“I go the whole week to walk to concourse,” he says. “If I skip an aisle, I will miss the next biggest, best thing.”
Howard brings an entourage of employees. They rent a house and a vehicle and stay the week. At the end of the week, the team will have purchased plenty of new items to delight their clients, who count on Ultimate Amusements for, well, the ultimate in amusement.
In 1998, in his parents’ basement, Howard began a DJ and karaoke business that he quickly grew to include hosting corporate and private events with game-show themes and more. His clients were all over the East Coast and as far west as Arizona. Soon, Howard added carnival games and booths, video and arcade games, interactive attractions and inflatables such as Moonbounces and obstacle courses.
As the company drew more business, Howard bought more equipment, games and attractions and expanded his warehouse space again and again. Ultimate Amusements purchased mechanical rides, virtual-reality devices, casino tables and equipment and so much more. While still based in Rockville, Ultimate Amusements now also has offices in Houston, Texas; and Cleveland, Ohio. The staff includes part-time, full-time and seasonal workers and can reach about 80 people during peak times of year.
The company’s 7,500-square-foot Rockville warehouse features 18-foot ceilings that allow storage on multiple levels with tiers, scaffolding and shelving. After all, this is a warehouse full of tiki huts, water slides, Skee-Ball games, billiard tables, cotton candy machines, hot dog cookers, photo booths, tents and way too many other things to list, not to mention the collection of giant versions of popular board games like Battleship, dominos, chess and Connect Four. Larger items like mechanical rides and rock-climbing walls are parked outside the warehouse on trailers. Ultimate Amusements owns everything.
“Nothing is subcontracted or franchised,” Howard says.
Howard acts as an agent for stilt walkers, magicians, air-brush painters, musicians and other human talent. The company also has an in-house team of DJs, and, Howard adds, “We represent about 40 bands ranging from solo artists to trios, Caribbean, jazz, bar and bat mitzvahs, all the way to full orchestras.
“A large percentage of our events are corporate,” Howard says.
Ultimate Amusements also puts on plenty of private events including bar and mat mitzvahs and weddings; plus community events such as after-prom parties; Potomac Day in Potomac Village; Germantown Octoberfest; and Rockville’s Hometown Holiday Celebration, a two-day event every Memorial Day Weekend.
The company’s success depends not just on the entertainment value of the items that fill Howard’s warehouse but also a friendly, efficient team to run the operation. UltimateAmusements.com allows clients to review and choose what they want at their event. A live-chat feature provides quick answers. The company offers step-by-step planning guides and as much hand-holding a client needs.
“Everyone on my crew that is trained and qualified and certified to run the mechanical bull has tried and tested it out too,” Howard says.
Howard’s wife, Melissa, helps out with HR functions, payroll and sales. Their three teen sons pitch in and help at the company and also enjoy the benefit of having parents in the amusement business.
“They have fantastic birthday parties,” Howard says with a laugh.