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Small Business Spotlight: McCarthy Tents & Events

Brett Davidsen
Created: November 27, 2019 06:33 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y (WHEC) — Preparations are underway at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park for the second annual ROC City Holiday Village. It opens next week, and crews from McCarthy Tents & Events have been working long hours to get the village built.

"We've expanded the footprint—the overall layout for the whole event," owner Sean McCarthy said. "Kind of built floors off of hills, whatever we could do to maximize the space, made the bar bigger because obviously, the bar was a smash hit there and we expect it to be even bigger this year."

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It's a far cry from the first job Sean McCarthy was hired to do when he started the business 12 years ago.

"Our first delivery was to a Chinese restaurant right before new year's eve, 25 black folding chairs," McCarthy said.

Since then, McCarthy's has grown to be one of the premier tent and party rental businesses in Western New York. Here they offer an all-inclusive package for almost any special event.

"We have the tents, tables, chairs, glassware, china, linens, dance floor, staging," McCarthy said.

McCarthy got his start working for other tent companies when he decided to branch out on his own.

Brett Davidsen: “What did you learn from doing that that helped you in starting a business?”

Sean McCarthy: "That I love tents."

Brett Davidsen: “You said 'I love tents.' People will hear that and think…”

Sean McCarthy: "He's crazy. Right. Every day you start basically with a blank canvas... and at the end of the day, you see a massive tent that you put up that day. So it's a sense of accomplishment that not everyone gets every day. They don't see what their work means. Every day, we look at it and say, wow."

In their warehouse on Brighton-Henrietta Townline Road, there are hundreds of tents on the shelves. McCarthy says they have 25 year-round employees and 30 to 40 seasonal workers -- including his father, a woodworker, who builds the tables and bars.

The Jazz Festival, Fairport Canal Days and the Lilac Festival all use McCarthy Tents & Events. Perhaps their biggest job to date was building the media tent for the 2017 presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., which they put up in six days in 15-degree weather and 40 miles per hour winds.

"It was about 40,000 square feet of tent, including a double-decker structure in the middle. so basically a massive media village—fully outfitted, carpeted, hard-walled, glass, doors, stairs—everything," McCarthy explained.

As you can imagine, McCarthy gets requests for all kinds of events. So what's been the strangest job? That would be when the circus came to town.

"We set up tents, a large tent 10 feet tall that the tigers lived in two years in a row," he said. "And for two years in a row they urinated on our sidewalls, and that sidewall, even after washing multiple times, we don't use it for anything but barn events because it still smells."

McCarthy would tell you it's been like a circus at their business lately. They're in the middle of an expansion, adding 15,000 square feet to their warehouse. McCarthy says it's a sign of their success, and a necessity, to maintain the quality their customers have come to expect.

Brett Davidsen: “What do you like most about this job?”

Sean McCarthy: "The excitement of the deadline. Unlike other businesses, our deadline is real. You're not going to push back a wedding day. You're not going to push back a graduation party to a Tuesday because you can't get it done. So it's just the excitement of it and feeling alive every day."

If you know of a small business we should feature, email us at spotlight@whec.com


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