Mardi Gras, crayfish boils, the French Quarter, hurricane season, Katrina recovery and all that jazz—there may be no place in the world like New Orleans for a tent rental business.
Consider event themes. Bryan Trecek, owner of Gulf Coast Tent Rentals, Kenner, La., says clients hosting tented events in the Big Easy like to bring the French Quarter motif of old wrought iron chandeliers, distressed furniture and white painted floors into their tent decor. “People come here for the atmosphere and they want to continue it into their tents,” he says.
It goes without saying that tent installers on the Gulf Coast have the hurricane season, from June through November, to contend with. “We are always watching and planning whether we should risk installing an event early or wait a couple of days, and at what time do we have to decide to take down tents that are out long-term in order to protect our inventory,” he says.
Trecek’s biggest ongoing challenge relates to events held in the French Quarter.
“Parking is nonexistent,” he says. “The roads are extremely narrow and the tents always need to go through a building into a courtyard.”
In addition, some tenting in the French Quarter requires a permit from the Vieux Carre, a stamped engineer letter for each tent, building permit, fire permit and a fire watch. These fees generally will run just under $900 per tent.
“We have a tremendous relationship with the fire department,” Trecek says. “They allow us to fax in our requests and mail a check at our leisure for our permits. Many of the surrounding parishes are much more complicated.”
When it comes to the labor market, Trecek says that in post-Katrina New Orleans, labor is easy to find, good labor is harder and a good driver supervisor is almost impossible.
“Since Katrina all companies had to increase the minimum starting wage much higher than the rest of the South,” he says. “Because of this, many people get paid better-than-average rates to work in the large retail chains for a lot less effort than installing tents. The real labor-intensive jobs are quite large as well with the offshore work for the oil companies and fishing. There is also a lot of construction on roads and bridges that takes many of the skilled laborers.”
The number of conventions and events needing tents is on the rise in New Orleans, although it is still not at pre-Katrina levels, he says. One tented event trend he has noted is an increase in businesses hosting crawfish boils for employees.
“Since Katrina, people have a closer bond and companies that have good, honest laborers are happy to give back to the people who allow them to operate,” he says.