For Janice Grieshop, vice president of Celina in Celina, Ohio, it all began in 1996 when a local hardware store went out of business after 74 years. “My husband, Herb, and I purchased its small inventory of tables, chairs and three tents and started Celina Tent Rental out of our rural home,” she says. “Our early customers were local people hosting parties and other events.”
Two years later, Celina Tent Inc., began designing and manufacturing tent tops to meet customers’ demands for quality party tents at a lower price. Once these affordable tents were available, the Grieshops launched their first website, CelinaTent.com, to promote chairs, tables and tents to the rental industry. This initial online effort was followed by GetTent.com in 2002, which sold the company’s party tents and related event accessories.
The sale of the rental division in 2005 propelled Celina to start developing
its own line of shelters and provide contract manufacturing services to other shelter manufacturers.
Celina was awarded a U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) contract in 2006 to produce the Humanitarian /General Purpose Tent System (HGPTS). This non-tactical military tent is a humanitarian relief shelter still used regularly throughout the Middle East and the South Pacific after conflicts and natural disasters. To date, the company has produced more than 10,000 humanitarian shelters.
In the succeeding years, Celina expanded beyond its Ohio borders by supplementing manufacturing capacity with a facility in China in 2011. Growth continued domestically in 2014 with an 11,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in the company’s namesake town of Celina, Ohio. That was followed by an additional 27,000-square-foot building the following year to accommodate large orders, such as tarps and HGPTS for use in humanitarian crises in Syria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nepal.
In 2016 the company opened a distribution center in the U.K. This facility holds inventory to support the event rental industry. Additionally, Celina keeps Berry Amendment-compliant shelters there. “Holding Berry-compliant shelters in the U.K. gives our company the ability to ship immediately when the U.S. government has a need in Europe,” Grieshop says. “This has been especially valuable recently. I am very proud we can support our military quickly when needed.”
More new buildings came in 2018 when warehousing and shipping moved to a 100,000-square-foot distribution center in Celina, and an 85,000-square-foot assembly plant opened in nearby St. Marys, Ohio.
“Our facility in Celina designs and cuts the fabric for our custom products and military products, which are printed at our in-house print shop,” Grieshop says. “These products are then assembled in our St. Marys facility and sent back to our distribution center for shipment.”
The company now has 90 employees worldwide and provides 24-hour customer service through an online chat feature. This service has been especially valuable during natural disasters and for supporting late-night event professionals and those seeking instruction manuals.
“One reason we have been so successful is that we have such a stable workforce,” Grieshop says, adding that employee turnover is low because workers are paid a fair wage, treated well and provided with excellent fringe benefits.
All in the family
Though global in scope, Celina is still a family-owned business. Management was transferred to Grieshop’s children in 2015. Son Jeff Grieshop is now president and daughter Jill Roy heads sales and marketing.
“It is a great legacy for us to have them continue to grow the company,” Grieshop says. “Jeff has been with the business since day one. He has the energy and ambition to forge out into the new markets. Both he and Jill are comfortable working with technology and are adept at changing directions quickly as needed. I am proud of the way they are carrying on what has become a multinational corporation and confident they will continue Celina’s reputation for high quality and excellent service.”
Jean Feingold is a freelance writer based in Gainesville, Fla.
Year founded: 1996
Number of employees: 90
Primary business: Manufacturer of military tents and party tents.
Distributor of tables, chairs and accessories.