A Tent To Call Your Own
From backyards to rooftops, this company knows all about the chic shelter.
Loane Bros. vice president & partner Mike O’Connor -Photographed by Cory Donovan
From making sails for boats navigating the Atlantic in 1815 to creating flags and tents for the Union Army during the Civil War to its present-day role of creating custom tents, Loane Bros. has been integral to the historic fabric of Baltimore for almost 200 years. Mike O’Connor, a vice president and partner, began his professional relationship with Loane Bros. in 1998 as an entry-level salesman. “Loane is truly a family operation,” says O’Connor, noting that much of the staff—including himself—has a tendency to “stay for a long time.” O’Connor attributes the closeness of the staff to the leadership of president Bryan Loane and vice president Scott Loane, the great-great- great-grandsons of founder Joseph Loane. Both encourage a team environment and a deep appreciation for excellent customer service. And with sometimes as many as 40 individual jobs a week—during the height of party and wedding season—O’Connor and his colleagues have their hands full.
Aside from all of the technical work that goes into trucking, unloading, reloading, and washing these massive tents (yes, Loane has a 80,000-square-foot space where the tents are cleaned in giant washing machines, hung up to dry, and stored), there are elements of whimsy, design, and magical transformations that rival scenes out of fairy tales. “One of the neat things about this industry is that it is full of surprises,” O’Connor says. “We see amazing properties, some of the best in the area, and work with a lot of different people with all different budgets, large and small.” O’Connor’s favorite part of the job is working with clients to reimagine environments that hold special meaning, such as a bride’s childhood home. “Some people are easy-going and others are strong-willed and stick by their vision. Sometimes you guide them and sometimes they guide you.” During the initial site visit, O’Connor and his clients enjoy brainstorming the infinite possibilities offered by their vast tent arsenal. The biggest perk of tenting, O’Connor says, is that couples have full autonomy and really can make up their own rules since having a tent allows for a level of personalization because the couple isn’t affected by the constraints of a formal venue. When it comes to dressing, there are endless possibilities including burlap, hay bales, draping, elegant tulle, and even over-the-top chandeliers. And while those are the fun things to think about when it comes to tents, Loane Bros. can deal with all the logistical stuff as well, like generators, power circuits, heating/cooling systems, and code standards. “We have someone on call 24 hours a day. Each event has its own maintenance crew leader who stays on site to help make any necessary adjustments throughout the evening,” O’Connor says. In many ways, he continues, the tent becomes the conduit to achieve the overall vision—it’s the foundation and the home base that sets the tone for the guests.
Q: At what point do couples need to decide if they want a tent for their wedding?
A: Generally speaking, at least two to three months in advance.
Q: What is the average cost range for small-, medium-, and large-sized tents?
A. A tent can run you as little as $300 or into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Q: What is the benefit of tenting a wedding versus renting a reception hall?
A: You get to pick the location, which, quite often, is much more scenic than a reception hall. You can also avoid the date and time conflicts that can arise at a facility.
Q: Is there a surface or environment that cannot support a tent?
A. No. But some areas are not conducive to tenting, such as areas easily flooded. Also, typically a tent is secured by staking. But it can be secured with other methods, such as weights, in applications where staking is not possible.
Q: What is included in a typical tent contract?
A: Delivery, installation, and removal of the tent itself. However, there are many accessories that may be considered, such as decorative items, climate-control items, flooring, staging, lighting, tables, chairs, etc.
Q: Is it possible to put a tent on reserve as a rain plan without paying a deposit for it? And if you end up not using the tent, is a refund possible?
A: A tent may be held as a rain-only plan, but we do require a non-refundable deposit to reserve the equipment and manpower. You would be given a deadline as to when the decision would need to be made.
Q: How can a couple make the tent space their own? Who hangs their specialty items?
A: Decorations are a great way to customize your tent space and make it your own. It can be achieved with lighting, draping, furniture, florals, etc. The options are endless depending upon your budget, how creative you want to be, and how much planning time you have. Sometimes we do the installation of these things, and sometimes your planner, florist, or decorator may do it. It really depends upon the complexity of the item and the skills required to do it.
Q: How hard is it to manipulate the temperature controls in a tent?
A: It’s not so much that the equipment is difficult to operate, but planning in accordance with the weather is of paramount importance to ensure your comfort. For example, the proper number of heaters or fans, the proper tonnage of air conditioning, proper installation and securing of walls, etc. Climate control is very important and your salesman will help you determine what is appropriate. Also, Loane Bros. can provide staffing during your party to help maintain climate-control equipment.
Q: Will lighting be provided with the tent rental?
A: It is not included per se, but is one of the many options that we offer that can really make an impact. There are many types and styles of lighting. Some lighting is strictly functional and much is also decorative (for both inside and outside the tent). Accentuating the landscape with lighting, for example, can really add a dramatic effect to the tent setting, while providing light for visibility. There are many styles of fixtures that can be used as well, such as chandeliers, lanterns, pin-spots, up lights, bistro lights, etc.
Q: You have a few different options for tents: sailcloth, frame, pole, ClearSpan, SaddleSpan, etc. Can you explain the differences among the tent choices?
A: Many times, the tent location dictates which type of tent works best. Pole tents, including sailcloth tents, require staking, which either may not be permitted or may not be possible at certain venues. Frame tents, ClearSpan tents, and SaddleSpan tents can be secured with weights (or stakes, if possible). Also, each type of tent has its own particular style, and that gets down to personal preference.
Q: Can you explain the general set-up and installation process for a tent?
A: We’ll do a site visit and prepare a written proposal that you would then agree to with your signature and deposit. On the day of installation, the area should be clear and ready for our crew to begin working. If we will be driving stakes, underground utilities should be marked for us prior to our arrival.
Q: What are the different flooring options for the tents?
A: Basic turf-style carpeting can be laid directly on the ground. Also, sub-flooring can be used, and these surfaces can be covered with a wide variety of carpet, vinyl, and wood flooring options.
Q: Any other important tips/questions to include?
A: Your tent salesman can help guide you on issues that you may not be considering. For example, power requirements and what to do about restroom facilities if you are having 200 guests at your home. Many people do not realize that there are luxury restroom facilities that can be rented that are climate-controlled and as nice as what you would find in a house.