Ein Zelt von Spatz von oben, es ist dunkel, im Zelt brennt ein Licht.

Camping

Spatz: a bond for life

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portraetbild nina
Nina
Guest author, 4-Seasons
© Fotos

Everyone knows them and everyone loves them: a cotton tent from Spatz is a life-long companion. The traditional company lays the foundation for this bond in its workshop in Oberuzwil – and it does so by hand, with needle and thread.

A large front window allows people to look into the workshop, located right on a street in Oberuzwil, a municipality of 6,000 inhabitants in the canton of St. Gallen. On one side of the large room there are trolleys with tied-up bundles of fabric and in the middle are two large wooden tables. It smells of washing, but also somewhat earthy – like nature. A sewing machine quietly rattles – welcome to the tent maker Spatz’s repair workshop!

Ludmila Knis sits at one of the sewing machines sewing a zip onto a beige piece of fabric which is to later become the entrance door to a large group tent. ‘Last year was so stormy that lots of the entrances tore. It often makes more sense to simply replace the entire door,’ explains the trained tailor, who studied textile engineering in Moscow and Würzburg and has worked at Spatz for five years. Ludmila and her colleague Toufik Idri, who has worked at Spatz for ten years, want to be prepared for when the peak season starts. That’s why they are sewing a couple of entrances now to keep in stock – after all, they know what Spatz customers need.

First port of call for youth groups

Scouts, YMCA members and other youth groups regularly bring their Spatz tents to Oberuzwil and have them washed, repaired and newly waterproofed. That can be 15 to 25 tents at once waiting on the trolleys in the workshop to be given a new lease of life. ‘The youth groups represent our day-to-day business, but private customers also bring their tents in – some of which are 30 years old. We repair all brands and types of group tents, including cotton tents and tents made from mixed fabrics, as well as caravan awnings, roof fittings or sun shields,’ explains Tobias Stump, who has, first and foremost, been responsible for customer communication and organisation in the workshop for around one-and-a-half years. However, if they are short on tailors, the trained dressmaker and industrial designer picks up a needle and thread to lend a hand.

  • Ein Zelt von Spatz auf einer Wiese, im Hintergrudn Wald und Berge. Die Aufnahme ist in schwarzweiss.
    Photo © Spatz
  • Ein Zelt von Spatz am Meer, man sieht Palmen.
    Photo © Spatz
  • Ein Mann an der Nähmaschine, er repariert ein Zelt von Spatz.

    Toufik Idri is well familiar with the fine cotton fabrics made specially for Spatz.

    Photo © Moritz Schäfer

Spatz’s history making tents goes back over 90 years. The founder Hans Behrmann sewed his first tent in 1931 and had the inner and outer tent design patented four years later. Spatz optimised the cotton fabrics which were produced specially for the company in Switzerland over the following decades. They are breathable, temperature equalising, waterproof and durable. ‘We can repair almost everything – whether it’s tears, holes or broken tension straps. Spatz tents are only consigned to the dustbin when they are really old and the cotton is very thin,’ says Tobias Stump, explaining the long service life of the tents.

Around 700 tents per year

As part of Transa, Spatz still sews vintage tents in Switzerland. It does so in Oberuzwil in the workshop with a large front window where pedestrians often stop to admire the craftsmanship. Tobias, Toufik, Sina and Ludmila use the winter to restock the small warehouse in the cellar so that they have a couple of versions of each tent in stock. When the season gets going at the start of March, there is barely any time left over for production besides all the repairs and services. Around 100 to 150 more or less broken tents come into the workshop per month during the peak season. Tents don’t only arrive to the workshop – customers can hand over their Spatz tents for repairs and to be washed around 60 kilometres away at the Transa store in Zurich.

Spatz tent repair

If your tent is damaged, we can arrange to have it repaired at the Transa Zurich Europaallee store. You can simply bring it to one of our branches. We can also repair other equipment at Transa – our specialists can solve virtually any conceivable problem.

As a twelve year old, Tobias himself was part of one of the hundreds of youth groups in Switzerland. However, he did not sleep in a Spatz tent at this time – this privilege was reserved for the older ones. He spent lots of time in a Spatz tent travelling with his family though and knows the benefits of these tents from his own experience: ‘Cotton swells when wet and makes the fabric waterproof naturally. Once it is no longer raining, the walls dry again immediately.’ Thanks to cotton’s breathability, the indoor climate in the tent is also pleasant and the temperature is always balanced.

Emotional connections

This is an aspect that customers also appreciate, as they often have lots of emotions bound up with their Spatz tent. Sometimes tents come into the workshop that are 50 years old and about to be handed down to the grandchildren. ‘We are very close to our customers. They tell us lots about their experiences and often also send photos,’ says Tobias. There is a pinboard on the wall in the workshop next to the coffee machine that Ludmila always starts up immediately when a customer comes to visit. Below a photo with a tent, taken in the USA, there is the following message: ‘After a break of a couple of years, my old graduation gift continues to perform flawlessly – now also for our children. Promise kept, Spatz, congrats.’

The promise that the company makes is that a Spatz tent will accompany you throughout your whole life. To live up to this promise, there is a ten-year guarantee on tents and a passionate repair service. While Tobias telephones with a customer to discuss which repairs will be required to their tent, Toufik spreads an outer tent out on one of the tables. He smooths out the fabric almost lovingly, meticulously checks the seams and examines an eyelet more carefully. Not even the smallest hole gets past him. Thanks to his years of experience, he knows all the options and tricks for repairing cotton tents and extending their service life so that they can still provide a home for many more experiences and emotions.

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