In a time of crisis, the Chattanooga Tent Co. is changing direction and putting its stakes down in a new field.
Instead of preparing tents for big events such as Bonnaroo and the Kentucky Derby that have been postponed, long-time family owned tent company is helping hospitals and businesses fight COVID-19.
At Erlanger hospital, the company put two 800-square-foot tents in the parking garage that are being used as triage areas. The weather proof tents have side walls that can slide like a shower curtain and have plastic flooring installed that can be disinfected and cleaned as needed.
"We have created drive-thru testing centers and have provided tents for Erlanger and Memorial hospital," Chattanooga Tent owner and president Mike Holland said. "We have heard great feedback from the area for our help, but we aren't the ones in the line of fire. It's the staff at the hospitals and the first responders who we really owe it to. The community has stepped up and rallied around each other to work as a team."
Chattanooga Tent has also provided tents for the corporate industry around town to help them check their employees for temperatures before going into work. They have also had to manufacture some of the fabric walls and vinyl curtain doors for some of the 2,000 triage units that will be placed in the New Orleans Convention Center. Holland said they made their first delivery to New Orleans last week.
Opened in 1934 by Holland's grandfather, the company has taken a massive hit. As a company that does not sell but builds tents for larger events, most of their regular jobs have been cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus.
But once again in a time of need the company has stepped up, as it did when they made tents and carving cases (canvas bags) to help the country in World War II along with making tents for use in the Korean War.
"I fear that the needs may grow for triage centers as our area peaks towards the end of April," Holland said. "I hope and pray our area is taking to heart social distancing. All of this going on is a surprise, but helpful income to be able to do these tents. We hate we have to do them for the reasons, but we are glad we can help."
Chattanooga Tent finds a lot of its work in the summer time through weddings as well as major sporting events, one of which they provided 150,000 square feet of tenting in Miami earlier this year.
They have also set up tents at the White House on four different occasions.
Holland says the return to normalcy for the national tent business will be a while, perhaps not until the later portion of 2021.
"The general consensus is we (tent business) will get back to a somewhat normal schedule in August or September," Holland said. "But to use the word normal, it may be 2021 and financially it will be possibly late 2021 before our industry gets back to where we want to be.
"Personally, I think you will see smaller events come back first. Such as weddings in your backyard. I still think it will be a while before some people feel comfortable going to events when there is 60,000-80,000 people there. But we will get there. This is a nation that rallies."
While Chattanooga Tent and so many other businesses are having to make adjustments on the fly, many are doing whatever in their power to help the local community fight through tough times.