- Created on Saturday, 02 February 2002 12:38
- Written by Jamie Kiffel
FENTON, MO -- Pristine tables burst with lilacs, lilies and roses, all arranged for 200 wedding guests. Overhead, the crowning glory- an expanse of sheer, white tent nylon--shades the affair. It all seems perfect until the tent rental company receives a call: “There are stains on this tent!”“That’s a tent rental company’s worst nightmare,” says Steve Arendt, former tent rental owner. But just three years ago, it was an all too real possibility. Steve’s only option for cleaning tents was to hose them down, taking four hours or longer--and even then, they didn’t always come out clean.
“Some guys in the business were using linen washers,” Steve says, “but I wasn’t happy with them.” First, linen washers include scores of compu-controls that a tent washer doesn’t need--and doesn’t want to pay for. Second, there is a 20 percent chance that a linen washer will cause the tent to deteriorate from too much heat, or that the cycle, designed for linens, will cause tears. That’s a serious concern when tents cost between four and six thousand dollars apiece.” So Steve talked to his brother, Scott, an inventor, and together, they designed a washer exclusively for tents. Steve could now simply load the tent, put in soap, push one button, and let it run--knowing it was programmed to the correct heat to keep tents from melting (approximately 100 degrees), and that its spin configuration and depth was specially designed to keep the tent from getting mangled.
It wasn’t long before clients and peers began asking where they could get their own tent washers, and Teeco was born. “It’s bare bones--that’s what the customers demand,” explains Steve, whose standard machine features a manual fill and drain that hooks up to almost any existing cold water line. However, completely automated cycles, instant fill, and a water recycling system are optional.
It’s rudimentary but economical: $34,000 for the model 1200 (washes up to 1200 sq. ft. at one time, and 9600 sq. ft. per day); $56,000 for the Model 3000, which washes 3000 sq. ft. at a time and 24,000 sq. feet in one eight-hour day. Both machines require only two operators, require no special floor for installation and use powder or liquid detergents which Teeco sells. Additionally, they feature safety controls including a guard bar on the front, and several safeties throughout which keep the machine from starting until they are engaged. The cycle runs just one hour.
“We’re definitely a micro-niche market,” admits Steve, “but a larger company can’t afford to create something as specialized as this.” Although he only sells approximately ten units per year, he is turning a profit, and will create custom jobs. A tent dryer is on the drawing board, as well. “I wish I could wave a magic wand over them and make them dry,” he laughs. So far, mechanically drying tents without burning them is next to impossible. “But I’m optimistic. We’ll see.”
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