When it comes to growth, good things come in threes for Tents Unlimited, Torrington, Conn. Three phases of change over the past decade-plus have seen the company triple the size of its original footprint.
Phase one:Ian and Brittany Sherwood took ownership of the pre-existing tent and event rental company in 2012. Ian had worked for Tents Unlimited — which was founded in the late 1980s by John Austin — since his high school days. Soon after he took ownership, his wife, Brittany — who currently serves as president of the American Rental Association’s (ARA) Connecticut chapter — came onboard to manage customer service, bookings and event coordination.
When the Sherwoods came onboard as owners, “We were only occupying one-third of the building that we’re currently in — about 4,800 sq. ft.,” Brittany says. “It was multi-story, so thankfully we could go up, but there came a point where we couldn’t go up any further.”
Phase two: In 2018, the couple increased their occupancy of the building by another one-third proportion. “Slowly but surely, we started to take over the warehouse. We added another third of the building and made it 7,200 sq. ft.,” Brittany says. “We had a tenant in the last third of the space and we very quickly learned that we needed more space if we wanted to expand as a business.”
Phase three:A final expansion in 2023 completed the trifecta of growth that has brought Tents Unlimited an additional 3,200 sq. ft. of space. “Our tenant’s lease was up, and they’ve moved to another location,” Brittany says, adding that with the new expansion, “we will get into the entire building.”
The building’s 26-ft. ceilings “have allowed us to palletize up and we utilize roll-back pallet systems. They are amazing space savers for small warehouse spaces,” Brittany says.
The new warehouse expansion will enable Tents Unlimited to cater to its core group of clients more effectively.
“I would say weddings are our bread and butter, in addition to large accounts that accommodate private schools and corporate events,” Brittany says. “We try to target high-end weddings — those needing sailcloth and cleartop tents, flooring, farm tables and that sort of thing. Our inventory is pretty expansive. That’s one of the main reasons why we had to do this new expansion — to keep up with the trends and the things that our brides and corporate customers are looking for. We needed more storage space.”
A look inside Tents Unlimited’s expanded warehouse space
Brittany says much of the event décor desired by Tents Unlimited’s clients reflect the rural landscape that defines Torrington’s region of northwest Connecticut.
“The majority of our customers are in rural or suburban areas, but primarily rural,” she says. “It’s definitely a farmland kind of community, and I would say that a lot of our customers want to echo what the area is like in the style of their events for the most part.”
Describing what she likes best about Tents Unlimited’s newly-expanded warehouse space, Brittany says “It’s just great to have the extra space so that we can grow as a business. Now we don’t have to feel as restricted if we want to add inventory. For example, we added crossback chairs recently. We didn’t have space for them before and it was perfect timing because of the expansion. We could move them over into our new location and if we want to continue to add inventory, even if it’s non-tent, we have the opportunity to do so now.”
Other features made possible by the new warehouse expansion include a new tent washer, a mechanized pulley system for drying tents and extra office space. And more innovations may be coming soon as the final leg of what has turned out to be a three-phase growth saga is allowing Tents Unlimited to dream big.
“We have a Teeco tent washer arriving and we’re excited to introduce a full-service tent washing facility to other companies and end users across northwestern Connecticut,” Brittany says. “There’s so much more we can do with it because it is so much space. We’ve got ideas. Come winter, when things slow down, we’ll get a little more creative.”