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2020 Reader’s Choice Awards: Products and services that go above and beyond

Features, Reader's Choice Awards | April 1, 2020 | By:

Many industry suppliers go more than the extra mile to help tent rental companies thrive—and the voters in the 2020 Reader’s Choice Awards have stories to tell about the products, services and suppliers that support them day after day, from the warehouse to the installation site. 

by Pamela Mills-Senn

The annual Reader’s Choice Awards, launched to celebrate InTents’ 25th anniversary in 2018, honor the innovative companies that move the industry forward. For this year’s awards, hundreds of voters cast ballots in 15 categories and left comments about the suppliers they rely on every day to help them get the job done.  

Here’s a look at what several Reader’s Choice voters have to say about some of the companies that make running a rental business easier and more profitable. 

This 100-by-380-foot Anchor Century® tent was the largest ever set up by Tents for Rent LLC. Installed for an employee appreciation event near Allentown, Pa., the project included an array of smaller structures grouped around the large tent. The smaller tents were installed by Smith Brothers Tent Rentals, which served as the primary contractor and project manager. Photo by Action Party Rentals; courtesy of Tents for Rent LLC.

Feeling like family

Bobby Bradley is president of Texas Tent, a full-service, corporate-focused event rental company in Dallas. Before he launched his business five years ago, he approached a handful of tent rental companies, asking them one question: What would they do over again if they had the chance? He kept hearing the same response.

“They said they would buy all their tent inventory from one manufacturer,” he recalls. “They all described how having tent parts and poles from different tent manufacturers led to operational issues. I took that advice and sought out one tent manufacturer I could start with and grow with.”

That manufacturer was Economy Tent International in Miami, Fla., says Bradley, who voted for Economy Tent as Best Frame Tent Manufacturer. Product and pricing were big draws, but Bradley was even more impressed by the company’s customer service.

“They made me feel like I was becoming a part of their family, even though I wasn’t a customer yet,” he says. “I’ve learned I can depend on Economy to not only be able to deliver at the last minute but to also provide me with a great quality product.”

In fact, Bradley recently put that customer service to the test. A job called for setting up 38 large tents within three days. On day two, the crew members realized they were short one fitting for one of the tents. 

“Sarah [Crews] at Economy Tent personally ensured the missing fitting was packaged and overnighted to us so we could meet the specs of our contract,” he says. 

What else does he need from suppliers?
“Other than advising me on potential issues related to odd site installs, all I really need is for them to answer a phone call or email quickly and to have the ability to ship product quickly.”

Texas Tent installed this 30-by-60-foot Economy Classic Plus™ frame tent for an outdoor wedding. Texas Tent is a full-service event company that provides an array of decor, furniture, staging, flooring and other accessories. Photo courtesy of Texas Tent.

Saving time and labor

Ask Tom Byrne, president of Connecticut Rental Centers Inc., a full-service event rental company located in Middletown, Conn., about what has had the biggest impact on his business, and he’s quick to credit the Green Monster Stake Puller, from Green Monster Manufacturing LLC in Elmsford, N.Y.

“This is a labor-saving machine which has saved money and countless hours of time,” says Byrne, who voted for the company in the Best Installation Equipment Supplier category. “It easily grabs stakes and pulls them out of the ground without flinching. [Plus] the company is great to deal with. They work in the industry and understand what the industry needs.”

When investing in a new product, price ranks third on Byrne’s list. Product quality is number one; the relationship he’s able to build with a sales rep or company comes in second.

“Having a go-to person to talk about needs, questions or problems is very important,” Byrne says. “I’m willing to pay more as long as the first two qualities are met.”

Byrne credits Anchor Industries Inc., specifically sales rep Mike Fenton, with earning his vote for Best Customer Service, while adding that all the sales reps at the Evansville, Ind., company are “top notch.”

What makes him such a fan? Byrne says he can call, email or text Fenton and get an almost immediate response. Pricing quotes are typically provided within 24 hours and technical or general questions are answered “in the blink of an eye.” But there are other ways Fenton goes the extra mile, says Byrne.

“He’s willing to work side by side with me or my installation team on a tricky installation,” he explains. “Or, if we’re purchasing a new type of tent, he’ll help with the initial installation, making sure we’re comfortable with the ins and outs and how-tos. We’ve built a great friendship with Anchor, which makes it comfortable to do business with them.”

What else does he need from suppliers?
“They should be able to provide quality equipment and knowledge about that equipment at a competitive price. Getting us the equipment we need on time and in quality condition is the most important.”

Rescuing the season

A resort on Lake Bemidji in Minnesota provided the perfect setting to showcase this 44-by-83-foot Tidewater® Sail Cloth Tent by Aztec Tents. Installed by Milestone Event Rental for a wedding, the tent also featured custom flooring. Photo courtesy of Milestone Event Rental.

The first vendor that rescued Milestone Event Rental from near disaster was McCourt Manufacturing, a Fort Smith, Ark., provider of chairs, tables, flooring and other items, says Marty Haas, Milestone president. Headquartered in Cannon Falls, Minn., the four-year-old Milestone specializes in offering Tidewater® sailcloth tents from Aztec Tents.

“Milestone was just getting started when we were informed (by another company) we weren’t going to be getting what we ordered. The McCourt team came through and saved the beginning of the 2017 season. They had our aluminum chairs and tables to us eight days after calling them in the middle of their busy season,” says Haas, who voted for the company as Best Rental Furniture Supplier.

Other standouts he mentions include Advantage Tent Fittings Inc. in Chillicothe, Ohio; Allstate Tent in Ringgold, Ga. (“They’ve done an amazing job on super-tight deadlines. They made 102 custom walls in five days and had them shipped to us just in time to use them); and Aztec Tents, Torrance, Calif., whom he voted as Best Sailcloth-Style Tent Manufacturer.

Customer service and availability are two big things he looks for in vendors. Haas also likes to know they’re “passionate” about what they do and are willing to come back to him in a reasonable time with answers to his questions. “This makes me feel we’re important to them and that they aren’t just trying to get a sale,” he explains.

What else does he need from suppliers?
“Training classes. Have the sales reps meet with the local rental branches like the Minnesota Rental Association or others. Also, storage ideas or solutions, and new product ideas.”

One of the most valuable additions to Muskoka Event Service’s inventory has been the Tent OX system, which has helped the company achieve operational efficiencies. Photo courtesy of Muskoka Event Services.

Durability, service, support

Daryl Sensenig is sales team leader with Tents for Rent LLC. Located in Lititz, Pa., the company provides rentals for outdoor events with a focus on pole tents. For about 30 years the company has purchased tents from Anchor, a partnership based in that company’s balanced mix of traditional and innovative offerings and product quality.

“Their tents last for years,” says Sensenig who voted for Anchor as the Best Tension/Pole-Supported Tent Manufacturer. “We only just recently had to retire one of their tents we bought over 25 years ago.”

One installation involving a 100-by-380-foot Century® tent illustrates the product quality Sensenig mentions. Shortly after the install team laid out the fabric, a rainstorm came through and dumped “thousands of gallons” on the fabric, he recalls. Then, while the tent was up, high winds came roaring through. Still, the tent stood fast.     

He also values Anchor’s customer service and support. “Steve Belliveau has years of experience in the industry and is extremely helpful,” Sensenig says. “And Steve Lipking, inside sales, understands the industry very well. He can sell tents and set up tents. He advocates for tent installers and listens to our suggestions and concerns.”

What else does he need from suppliers?
“We want industry experience. We want a product that has a good ROI. We should get our purchase cost back in about seven rentals. And since labor is our biggest cost, anything that a vendor can do to make products simpler and faster to install helps our logistics and bottom line.”

Responsiveness and energy

Employees of shipping supplier Uline were feted at an appreciation event with 4,000 attendees under a Century® tent installed by Tents for Rent, with interior furnishings and decorations provided by Action Party Rentals. Photo by Action Party Rentals; courtesy of Tents for Rent LLC.

There are a couple of things Devin Morley, owner of Muskoka Event Services & Property Care, a Gravenhurst, Ont., Canada-based company specializing in upscale private events, luxury weddings and festivals, wouldn’t want to be without. Goodshuffle Pro, an event rental/management software system from Washington, D.C.-based Goodshuffle Inc., is one of them.

When Morley started the company in 2016, its software demands were minimal. But around the second year, when business began accelerating, Microsoft® Excel was no longer robust enough; a customer relationship management (CRM) system was needed. For Morley, what set Goodshuffle apart was its friendly user interface and the staff’s responsiveness and energy.

“They were young, like us, and eager to grow. They took criticism and made the right changes. These new kids on the block have all the right tools for the future of rental software. It’s cloud-based and the price is right,” says Morley, who voted the company as the Best Rental Software Provider.

Another addition that has helped the company achieve labor and installation efficiencies while reducing injury has been the Tent OX™ from the same-named company based in Enola, Pa. (Morley voted for Tent OX as Best Installation Equipment Supplier). Investing in the X2 Frame System from Eureka! in Binghamton, N.Y., was another good move, says Morley, who cast a vote for Eureka! in the Best Frame Tent Manufacturer category.

“In our area there are odd terrains, as there are mostly rocks, trees and water making up the landscape,” he explains. “The X2 System is quick to install, lightweight and looks great for any occasion.”

Muskoka’s location in Ontario can present delivery, cost and timeline challenges, Morley says. Consequently, when considering any new item for its inventory, the company ranks purchases by demand, overall cost (location and delivery factor in), quality, customer service and reputation.

“One thing to note is that the connection with the sales team is a key component at rental shows,” he says. “I am a younger owner, likely one of the youngest in North America—I was 25 when I started—and I often got brushed off as a non-serious buyer [at the shows].”

What else does he need from suppliers?
“Suppliers who can work with [international] borders, have  add-on features and can work with us based on our needs.  There is always something that changes year over year, and being able to stay with these changes and market trends helps.” 

Pamela Mills-Senn is a Long Beach, Calif.-based freelance writer.

InTents 2020 Reader’s Choice AWARDS!

In November 2019, we asked InTents readers to vote for the best of the best in 15 categories. Which tent rental industry supplier always comes through when you need them? What piece of equipment saves you the most labor and money? And what products and services do you depend on to run your business?

Best Frame Tent Manufacturer: Anchor Industries Inc.
Honorable mention: Economy Tent International

Best Clearspan Manufacturer: Losberger De Boer
Honorable mention: Anchor Industries Inc.

Best Sailcloth-style Tent Manufacturer: Anchor Industries Inc.
Honorable mention: Fred’s Tents & Canopies Inc.

Best Tension/Pole-Supported Tent Manufacturer: Anchor Industries Inc.
Honorable mention: Aztec Tents

Best Tent Fabric Supplier: Snyder Manufacturing Inc.
Honorable mention: Keder Solutions

Best Installation Equipment Supplier: B&R Innovations LLC/Block and Roll Tent Ballast Solutions
Honorable mention: Tent OX

Best Flooring Supplier: Dura-Trac Flooring Ltd.
Honorable mention: Groove Surfaces LLC 

Best Tent Heating and/or Cooling Supplier: L.B. White Co. LLC
Honorable mention: Aggreko

Best Custom Graphics Supplier: Fred’s Tents & Canopies Inc.
Honorable mention: Anchor Industries Inc.

Best Tent Washing Machine or Cleaning Product Supplier: Teeco Solutions
Honorable mention: CCC Washers Inc./Charnecke Tents Inc.

Best Tent Liner Supplier: Anchor Industries Inc.
Honorable mention: Structure | Liners

Best Rental Furniture Supplier: Palmer Snyder
Honorable mention: Commercial Seating Products (CSP)

Best Linen Supplier: A1 Tablecloth Co.
Honorable mention: Ultimate Textile

Best Rental Software Provider: Point of Rental Software
Honorable mention: Goodshuffle Pro Event Rental Software

Best Customer Service (any provider): Anchor Industries Inc.
Honorable mention: Losberger De Boer 

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