Steven Eisenstein grew up in the restaurant business, starting when he was 11 as a dishwasher in his father’s pizza and later Mexican restaurants. After college, he pursued a career in hospitality: hotels, catering and food beverage management, even working for two years for Wolfgang Puck.
Now president of Classic Tents & Events, Eisenstein said, “When I had young children, I didn’t want the type of work schedule that required all hours. I studied the market. Luckily, more recently, film production landed in Atlanta which really gave us a boost.”
In 2010, Eisenstein bought the tent events company. Since taking over the helm, he has increased its revenue eight times. Having just celebrated its 20th anniversary, Classic is located in Norcross on 44,000 square feet versus the 12,000 square feet it occupied when he took it over 10 years ago.
In early March, approaching the pandemic, Eisenstein began assessing hospital and health care needs and decided to team up with three air conditioning companies to rent generators and refrigeration, to partner with municipalities such as the Fulton County Board of Health, urgent care centers, and facilities in Duluth, Gwinnett and Sandy Springs to rent out tents for COVID-19 testing locations.
“At least through June, we have these tents from 10 feet by 20 feet to 30 feet to 75 feet. Twelve at this point are operational.”
Another entrepreneurial move by Eisenstein to diversify was investing in a huge industrial washing machine for $87,000. “We are washing other companies’ tents and performing work on air conditioning (among other) duct work to keep our staff busy. And, yes, this has been profitable.”
Eisenstein has his eye on this summer and fall. “I am keeping my mindset flexible and moving. We keep in constant contact with our customers on their rescheduled event dates.”
The Peachtree Road Race, Food that Rocks, and City of Decatur had events that contracted with Classic services but have been postponed from their original dates. The Peachtree Road Race notably is now on for Thanksgiving versus the date it’s been held since its inception, July 4.
One especially bright light for Eisenstein is the recent announcement that Tyler Perry Studios will go back into movie production locally.
Eisenstein said, “Pre-pandemic our movie business was major. We rented out tents that were used for base camp, ground control, catering, hair and makeup. We even rent hair and makeup mirrors, maybe a unique feature to Classic. Also chairs, flooring, tables, lighting and staging.”
With Eisenstein’s family mindset, Classic rents out games such as foosball and cornhole, and cotton candy machines. “Think about other things related to crowd control. We rent stanchions, barricades, picket fences, ways to close off streets and banners, plus carpet, heating and cooling. The only thing we don’t rent out is glass and china!”
Thinking ahead to how theater attendance might be formatted, Eisenstein proposed to Kenny Blank, executive director of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, an out-of-the box idea of having outdoor “tented” movies as a new experience for the festival. “Let’s say ‘he’s thinking about it.’ We will continue to spread our wings to look for more diversification in this new reality. I am cautiously optimistic that activities will resume.”
Meanwhile, Eisenstein’s business model is on solid ground, drawing from the biblical mishkan mentioned in Exodus 33:7-11, where the tabernacle was a meeting and dwelling place known as “the tent of the congregation” and “the tent of meeting.” The tent was also a portable dwelling used by the children of Israel during the Exodus. It was described as having side curtains with poles and stakes, much as we envision a tent today being made from linen.