Ben Naylor and Kat Lockridge have been running Classical Tents and Party Goods for the last 20 years.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — When someone wants to hold a large event, they need a large tent, measured and installed, a dance floor, dozens of tables and chairs, and decorations, plus a caterer needs certain equipment.
Providing all of that has proven to be a successful business for the last 20 years for Katherine "Kat" Lockridge and Benjamin Naylor.
The couple bought Classical Tents and Party Goods from a relative 19 years ago and it has proven to be such a successful endeavor that they have now purchased their own warehouse in the Downing Industrial Park to continue the thriving business.
On Monday, Classical Tents opened for business in its new home.
When asked what the company does, the easiest answer is that they rent all of the equipment needed for weddings and other events. But, it is much more than that.
"The thing we are best at is big, involved events. We do some specialty lighting but not on busy, busy weekends so there might be a lighting company involved; there is usually a florist; a decorator may be involved if this is a wedding for instance," Lockridge said in the company's new location. "You need a lot of coordination and communication ahead of time to pull of an event like that."
The company will first provide a site inspection to help determine what type of flooring and tent will be needed — including the engineering, electrical needs and tent permitting.
From there they work with other vendors to piece together the details, with Classical Tents even meeting the caterer's demands for equipment. Meanwhile, the customer can pick our everything from linens to china to the chairs and to the type of dance floor.
"The client is much more savvy these days, and largely because of the Internet. They have so much more exposure to product, service and reviews. You have a very savvy client who often has a lot of demands and needs. You are always trying to keep up with the next trend," Lockridge said, joking about the number of brides who show her their Pinterest account filled with products.
The company has a showroom — it is not quite yet set up in the new location yet — where the customer can handle and see all of the products. A computer program will help them browse the inventory. The warehouse is filled with the different types of ideas for the events that the company has gathered over the years.
Lockridge attends national conferences to find out about new products and tries to stay on top with what will be popular and should be in her inventory.
"This last year we brought in a black and white dance floor because people we were asking for it," she said.
When the event comes, the company delivers and sets up the tents in an array of sizes and the rest. Mostly, Lockridge is working on weddings, which is the specialty she hoped her business would be doing. Five years ago, she began the Lenox Wedding Tour to help show off the venues in the Berkshires.
"My goal was to get Classical Tents to do more weddings and have a higher-end clientele and the Lenox Wedding Tour helped me serve that purpose and we met that goal," Lockridge said.
The tour brought some of the industry's best wedding planners around the Berkshires for an extended weekend in exchange for helping to promote the venues. It worked. Lockridge says she receives mostly high-end customers planning weddings.
She said there are some items reserved for specific venues because of the large amount of events they hold.
Customers can browse the array of products the company has available in the showroom.
Although the company may have increased its wedding and high-end market, it still gets the small tent rentals for such things as a graduation party on which the company was founded.
The company was started by Naylor's cousin in Lee eight years before the couple bought it.
When they did, they carried a relatively basic stock of tents and supplies with one seasonal employee. Now, they have 24 employees, eight of whom are year-round.
"When we bought Classical Tents, the first year there was one seasonal employee. Now we have eight year-round employees and the rest are seasonal," she said. "It is a fairly long season and some of those people will get 10 months, which is almost year round."
The season is mostly during the summer but in the winter, they go through each piece of equipment to determine if it needs repair or replacement — including each piece of tent equipment.
The focus on weddings has just built on what they have always been successful doing. The company does some corporate events but there hasn't been a tremendous demand in the Berkshires.
The company tries to keep business within an hour and a half drive from the warehouse. However, they have traveled long distances for large jobs.
"We are about 10 times the size that we were 20 years ago," Lockridge said.
The couple bought the business and moved to the Berkshires from Vermont and hasn't looked back. They kept with the lease in Lee and then later moved the business to Lenox.
"It was a big learning curve because we weren't slinging up tents. I never even noticed a tent once before we bought the business," Lockridge said.
But with the rent increasing again, the couple finally decided to buy their own building and the market led them to the Downing Industrial Park. They needed more space — they were storing things outside — and they needed more bathrooms.
"The rent had more than doubled in three years and we had a good down payment, so we said now it is time to buy," Lockridge said.
They closed on their new location at 43 Downing Industrial Parkway on June 20 and in July started to move product from one location to the next.
Also with the move the company is launching a new website. Lockridge said the company purchased a lot of new items in the last year so the focus now is to just settle into their new location.
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