Now that we’re four months into my tenure here, I’ve noticed a trend in the stories I’m getting. I’m quickly becoming the “other stuff” guy. Whenever there’s a story needed about something not traditional—or more of a specialty in the industry—my inbox dings from Jerry! With that firmly in mind, I was not the least bit surprised when Jerry gave me the call to do a piece about stain. Interior stains are an important part of the industry and while they’re not always on the forefront of every paint customer’s imagination, your store would feel a whole lot emptier without them!
Just like with many other product categories in our industry, there is a constant stream of research and development that can be hard to keep up with. I know I’m guilty of it! I can barely remember the last time I did a stain project but one thing I do remember is it didn’t turn out like I planned, so I’m glad I have these folks to talk to so next time I’ll be armed for success. Customers who haven’t stained in quite some time may be even more surprised than I was at the changes and improvements in today’s stains, which combine ease of use with great results.
“Coatings are becoming more advanced in color retention, open time, and water, chemical and abrasion resistance.” Benjamin Moore’s Mundwiller listed.
“Regulatory changes have been moving in a direction that favor water-based stains,” adds Manz at PPG. “Recent performance and application improvements in waterborne products—easy application, fast dry time, and easy clean up—will allow professionals and do-it-yourselfers alike to achieve the beauty and durability they expect without extensive preparation.”
Minwax takes the DIY ethos even further, Fererra noted. “Many DIYers are looking for a wide range of color choices, fast recoat and dry times, no sanding between coats of clear finish, soap and water clean-up, and other conveniences. Minwax has many products that meet all of these needs.” The ultimate deliverables are the same across all projects, she continued. “DIYers and pros want rich, beautiful stain color and long-lasting durable protection from their clear finishes. They want their project to be beautiful, and they want to achieve their goal with confidence. Education and inspiration is critical!”
Let’s unpack that last idea a bit further. If education and inspiration are critical to both paint pros and DIYers completing project successfully, it’s very beneficial to you to be able to provide BOTH of those to your clients—just like it’s beneficial for us to provide education and inspiration to you. It’s that kind of service and knowledge that keeps them in your stores and out of the Big Boxes!
It’s Not Hard (It’s Cured!)
This isn’t as common among paint pros, but quite prevalent among DIYers is the idea that stain is a completely different animal from paint all together. It can sometimes spook them a bit when they’re tackling their projects. But they’re in luck—many of the new generation of stains are designed to be very easy to work with. Our friends at PPG and Minwax offered their takes on making staining easier.
“At PPG, we look to develop formulas that enable easy application, for example PPG ProLuxe™ Cetol® BL Interior Wood Finish is a urethane-fortified acrylic formulation designed to offer a high-performance clear satin finish for most interior wood surfaces,” said Manz. “It offers protection, durability and ease of application with quick-dry features, easy clean-up, and a low odor formula that dries to touch in two hours.”
Once again focusing on that ever-growing DIY market, Fererra says you and your staff can help allay their fears. “While some consumers feel intimidated by staining, we at Minwax aim to empower and inspire DIYers to get their hands dirty and stain via our easy to use products and via our digital hub,” she said. “Our online destination is updated on a regular basis and includes the latest news on our products and programs, as well as how-to videos that will help educate consumers to make the wood finishing process accessible and approachable for people at all skill levels.”
Having these kinds of resources and being able to bring them to your customers might make the difference between them feeling empowered and doing a great job or having a rough go of it. (And if the going gets rough, check out our abrasives article on page 24!)
All of this is great, but I know you’re asking, “Can we get to the meat and potatoes of how to sell all of this?” Of course! Your patience is about to be rewarded because the panel had a lot to say about that!
From Your Shelves to (Staining) Theirs!
In many of these specialized product categories, there is one common thread among almost all of them: trying to figure out the best way to merchandise and sell them alongside the rest of your stock. A built-in option if you carry Benjamin Moore or PPG stain products is the brand recognition that can carry over from the paint lines you (probably) already handle!
Manz had great feedback on this. “Brand trust does have an impact on stain product selection,” she assured us. “PPG customers receive reassurance in noting PPG coatings are not only trusted on airplanes, cars, consumer electronics, submarines, and space shuttles in the harshest conditions, they also have been trusted by professional painters for more than 130 years.”
Minwax is a bit different, as stains and wood finishes are their specialty. Jacquelyn Ferrara brings up that by asking customers about their knowledge of wood finishing, you can provide customized product selection and advice. “Dealers that develop expertise in wood finishing products can connect with their consumers by offering products for every project and skill level, and by being able to help them select and use the right products for their unique project.” She adds, “Wood finishing is not difficult, and dealers that break down that ‘ease of use’ barrier are very successful in selling interior wood stains and clear protective finishes.”
Mundwiller reminds us to ask about the wood itself, because every piece has its own idiosyncrasies. “Discussing the unpredictability created by the variances in wood types, cut, and humidity levels gives you the opportunity to position yourself to your targeted customers as a true coatings and service provider.” If you show yourself as the stain expert, next time they need paint, they’ll come to you!
The common theme has been said by everyone in our sample group many times over: to sell stains to the best of your ability, you have to know the product inside and out! From different types and colors to tips on application and any other information you can give your customers, it all helps the end goal of selling more product. The keys to being your customers’ source is staying up to date on the newest developments in the industry (haha you’re welcome!) and most importantly, being up to date on how to work with the products to get the absolute best results for a project, no matter how big or small it might be. Don’t fear the stain—follow these tips and rake in the (unstained) cash! It’ll be great for your reputation!
Even with all of the new products and developments in the stain sector, sometimes there might be reasons to not completely re-stain a surface. The finish might not be too far gone to warrant the stripping, sanding, and other labor involved, costs might be prohibitive, or perhaps your customer just doesn’t want to. In some cases, new stain can ruin old money, but we’ll get to that.
A good option for these customers is finish restoration, and Eric Howard of Howard Products has some thoughts on that very topic along with a line of products to help customers restore old finishes rather than entirely redo them.
What is it not?
Eric is quick to mention that Howard Products Restor-A-Finish is NOT a stain although it does have color in it. “It’s a restorer,” he clarifies. “Refinishing, restoring, and sometimes waxing antiques, old furniture, old pianos, and even kitchen cabinets can turn into a big job quickly. That’s why it’s important to merchandise these products correctly in the stain aisle and have plenty of brochures and header boards as well as knowledgeable sales staff that can help steer the customer in the right direction.”
If you remember Jerry’s piano project from a few months ago, you know how rough it started out and how Restor-A-Finish helped bring it back to life. “Not all antiques need to be refinished,” Eric urges, “in fact doing so can ruin the character and natural beauty of an antique piano or old finish. ‘Refinishing’ vs. ‘restoring’ has become more of a point of study before a customer starts a project. People are more enlightened on restoring and preserving old wood finishes with specialty products like Restor-A-Finish and Feed-N-Wax.”
I can agree with him on that because with these old instruments I handle every day in my “other job” at a vintage guitar shop, a full strip and refinish, even if it’s done very well with the right products and formulas, can tank values by up to half versus a guitar with the original yet well-worn finish.
Howard agrees, stating that most antiques are worth more and look better with their original finish intact. “Scratches, dents, dings and all…it’s what antique buffs call ‘patina.’ Restor-A-Finish, with its eight colors, restores the existing finish without removing it, while bringing out the original color and depth of grain.”
Sometimes, he continued, your finish might be beyond restoration, in which case you’ll need to strip and stain—or just get something new, but that won’t get you any business. “The more you can educate the potential customer about the options available the better,” said Eric. The more options available in your stain aisle, the more likely you’ll make that sale!
Techniques for Antiques
This is an even more specialty subset in the stain sector so the obvious question is, “How in the heck can I merchandise this as well?”
Let’s begin with a little history. “Howard Products, especially Restor-A-Finish and Feed-N-Wax,” he narrates, “have been very popular in the antique industry for decades. Because of that, these products found their way into more and more paint dealerships across the country. With everything from word of mouth and TV shows to magazines discussing how to restore older finishes rather than strip, sand, stain, etc., more people became aware of Howard Products and restoration products in general.”
As the popularity for collecting older and antique items grows, so does the niche for products to maintain them. “Collecting old wooden items ranging from antiques to old homes to pianos, even old wooden tools, has become very popular. People are interested in learning about restoring and preserving old wood finishes. Howard Products manufactures an entire line of specialty restoration products to fill that demand and interest,” said Howard.
“With most older or antique finishes, attempt to restore them rather than strip and re-stain,” Howard recommended. “That said, however, not all finishes can be restored. Sometimes it comes down to the item, project, or finish itself.”
My own experience shows where that decision was ill-made: I had a beautiful 1960s Fender Strat guitar come into my shop a few weeks ago, owned by a well-known local musician. All of the parts were original and it sounded great, but upon further inspection, I realized with my eagle eyes that the body of the guitar had been refinished. He must have not liked the worn look, different color…whatever it was, he refinished it. My heart sank. What would have been a guitar worth upwards of five figures was immediately downgraded to a few thousand dollars, placing it firmly in “player’s grade” and out of the lucrative collector’s realm.
Also, warns Eric, everything is not what it seems. Watch out for products that claim to “restore” when in reality they are mild acetone-base varnish removers or strippers simply called re-finishers. “A re-finisher does not restore, it basically strips off all the patina or clear coat, leaving the stain,” he said.
Another thing he says to look out for are “temporary shine” products that cover an existing finish in silicone oil or a thin film of polyurethane. “They were never popular in the antique industry,” he said. “They can ruin an antique finish and never develop patina or that rich glow of a waxed finish.”
That part is true, I personally have had a heck of a time with instruments that have had silicone polishes used on them. It simply gums everything up if you’re doing a refinish or even a drop fill to do a ding repair.
Bringing all this to the restored or refinished table, you can help your customers make an educated choice on the best course of action, and hopefully you’ll have that course of action for sale. But even if you don’t, they’ll know you know your stains and finishes.
“Great results from one restoration project can lead to an increase in repeat purchases and even new customers for you stain aisle. The store that designs its stain aisle around their customer’s needs and offers the right specialty product mix will succeed,” Howard concluded.
I couldn’t say it better myself, but thanks to Eric I don’t have to.
Two articles in one issue…we’re getting into uncharted territory! I will make sure to keep it exciting so you stay absolutely glued to these pages! I’m trying not to feel overwhelmed by all the projects I need to get done this week, but coincidentally a great deal of what I need to do is in regards to the topic of this piece: sanding. From adjusting bridge saddle and nut heights on musical instruments to softening hard edges (which reduces guitar strings breaking across them), I’m sanding all the time at Acme Guitars. I use everything from the coarser grits on those saddle shaves to the super fine grits to buff my freshly rounded-over edges (which I knocked down with coarse, of course) to get them to a near-perfect smooth finish that looks like nothing was ever touched.
I’ve had pretty much all the issues you can have with abrasives—especially clogging—so being able to talk to these rough and tumble experts helps for my own uses as much as in getting information for this article.
I got a chance to chat with John Petersen, Advanced Product Development Specialist at 3M; Mike Gulley, Product Specialist for Mirka; and Lorilee Torrey of Atlass Marketing, who reps for Festool about all things nitty and gritty.
Not Your Father’s Sandpaper
And if it is your father’s sandpaper, give it back to him! If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time at Mug Pub Inc., it’s that there’s seemingly no limit to innovation in this industry and a lot of it happens at a “blink and you’ll miss it” pace. It’s almost a full time job to stay on top of it, but conveniently enough, the companies I consulted are more than willing to divulge the unique aspects of their products and what benefits all of that constant and consistent R&D has achieved.
First up is 3M with its latest and greatest. John Petersen told me about 3M’s Advanced Abrasive Sanding Sheets with NO-SLIP GRIP™ backing and premium mineral technology. “They provide longer sheet life compared to 3M conventional abrasives of comparable grit, plus less effort and less hand fatigue,” he explained. “The No-Slip Grip coating on the back eliminates slippage and allows you to easily use your entire hand when sanding.”
This solves a common issue of not getting a good grip on the backing when working on a surface. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve slipped on paper or have had hand strain after a particularly long sanding session, I can say with all the honesty that I’d make enough money that probably I wouldn’t have to write anymore! But now as it seems that 3M has put an end to that, I’ll get back to the keyboard.
“3M Ultra-Flexible Sanding Sheets are perfect for flat surfaces, spindles, trim and other hard-to-reach areas,” Petersen continues. “These abrasives combine synthetic minerals, strong resins, and an innovative film backing so you can fold, roll, or shape them into any form you need to get the job done. Plus they are clog resistant and can be used wet or dry. The tough backing resists puncture, tears, and creases, helping the sheet keep its original shape. It’s also great for flat sanding; simply wrap around your hand or on a sponge for more traction.”
Possibly the most exciting feature—and the one nearest and dearest to my uses where I’m creating a very fine dust—is in 3M’s new Ultra-Flexible sponge. “It has grooves that channel dust away from the abrasive surface, reducing dust and increasing sponge life,” said Petersen. He suggests using the patterned side for detail sanding and superior conformability, while the standard side works on flat surface sanding. I’ve actually had a chance to use this one at the shop on one of those saddle jobs I talked about earlier, with excellent results.
Oh, and Jerry just reminded me that you can see 3M abrasives in action in our Start to Finish Project article in this month’s issue of The Paint Contractor.
Free to Be…
Mirka’s Mike Gulley laid out some of his company’s innovations for me, especially regarding developments in dust-free sanding, something your lungs will thank you for! He told me that the goal with these products is to eliminate airborne dust when sanding wood, paint, or drywall. “Mirka has been at the front of this concept with Net abrasives,” he attests. “By selectively coating a woven nylon mesh, we have been able to produce sanding discs and strips that have dust extraction points within 0.5mm from the abrasive grains. Mirka’s Abranet abrasives provide unequalled efficiency for dust-free sanding when used with a portable or central vacuum system.”
Makers of CEROS and then the new and improved DEROS model, this time Gulley wanted to discuss Mirka’s new DEOS (Direct Electric Orbital Sander), a lightweight, precision sanding machine that, according to the company, provides superior finishing characteristics along with the ability to be used with Mirka’s Net abrasives.
He continues from here: “It is lighter, and a lower profile than competitive tools, so it can be used in smaller areas, and it has a brushless DC motor for precise control of the sanding speed. Its 3mm orbit is 50% larger than its closest competitor for faster performance.”
Finally, our friend Lorilee Torrey of Festool had some to say about the R&D successes at that company. She was telling me about one of Festool’s biggest recent innovations, its new cordless hybrid sanders that work with the company’s GRANAT abrasives. “With a 30-minute runtime and 30-minute charge time, our cordless sanders give paint professionals the freedom they need to work anywhere and everywhere quickly and without hassling with cords and hoses, while maintaining the dust extraction that they need to keep a clean and efficient job site” she said.
The goal of the Festool system, she noted, is to help painters work faster and cleaner, plus when it’s time to go home they won’t have a floor full of dust to sweep up. “When painters utilize our system, they have an opportunity to be more competitive on bids, reduce call backs, and add value to each and every job,” she said. With all of this development in the sector it’s really up to you to pick which of these advanced products to stock. But the secondary is how many of them and which styles to carry. Fear not! That was my next question.
The Truth About Grits
There’s so many different types of abrasives and just as many grits, so how do you pick the ones best for your store? Or do you toss up your hands and get your grits at Waffle House? All three of our friends had some ideas about that. (Your store, not Waffle House.)
John Petersen of 3M suggests to carry it all! “Users need to sand with multiple grits from coarse to fine, skipping no more than one grit between coats,” he points out. “The No-Slip Grip sheets are great for flat surfaces, the Ultra Flexible sanding sheets are great for curves and details, and the Dust Channeling sponges are great for walls and drywall sanding.”
Gulley from Mirka has a slightly different take: “Industry-accepted practices have created standard operation procedures (SOPs) for most tasks. Whether that means using an 80-grit abrasive for stripping paint or a 180-grit prior to staining, the sequences are the same for almost all users. Manufacturers of paints, stains, and other coatings all indicate their recommended sequence of abrasives needed to properly use their products. By stocking these recommended grits, you will be sure to have the necessary abrasives to support those products.” This is a more coating-centric approach, so your decisions would moreso be based off of what brands of coatings you carry.
Festool offered an in-between solution. “Our GRANAT abrasives perform at a very high level for painters,” said Torrey. “Having a good selection for all applications will help. Festool offers very coarse grits to extremely fine grits.”
So once you have your lines and grits picked out, what are some ways you can market these products? Customers might know that they need an abrasive, but they might not be aware of the breadth in selection or what goes with what. How can you help?
Grinding Away at The Competition
The omnipresent question is always about the best way to market the products we talk about, and in my newly acquired experience, my panelists have always been helpful. Torrey at Festool says that placement is key. “Making it easy for the painters to identify where abrasives are located will make it easier for them to be found,” she put simply. “Independent dealers want to be a one-stop shop for all the painter’s needs. If abrasives are not front and center, the big box store may be the painter’s next stop.”
Independents are always wanting to be THE source for everything a painter would need, so I completely agree. Every time I can make one of my clients come back to Acme and keep them out of a Guitar Center (the musician’s Big Box Store) is a great day for me and a great day for independent retailers as a whole!
Mirka plays on the knowledge base of the independent and how you can leverage it to keep your customers coming back to you every time they take sandpaper to surface. “By educating the end-users of these products on the benefits of dust-free sanding and high-quality equipment, you can create a customer base that looks at the long-term return on investment in both healthy work practices and tools designed for professionals,” said Gulley. “Lost time cleaning sanding dust, or lost work due to health issues after breathing dust for extended periods of time are not worth a few cents saved per disc. The combination of portable vacuum systems, lightweight sanders such as DEOS or DEROS, and Mirka’s Abranet abrasives provide the perfect solution for dust-free sanding.”
Polishing it Off
There’s been a lot changed in abrasives since the Chinese put crushed shells, seeds, and sand on parchment in the 1st Century, and I believe we’re all the better for it! There’s products for any application under the sun and more grits and technology than you can shake a paint paddle at. With all the R&D this sector has put in, and with a little research on your own, you can be certain that you’re selling your customers the best there is.
With the skill and knowhow you have as a dealer, you can know what to stock and how to guide customers to the right product for their project so that when the dust settles, everyone from paint pros to DIYers will come to your shop time and time again.
Paint brush manufacturer Gordon Brush Mfg. Co., based in City of Industry, California has acquired Bronx-based Kirschner Brush Mfg. Company. Both companies are products of the 1950s—Kirschner from 1957 and Gordon from 1951.
Kirschner manufacturers paintbrushes for indoor and outdoor use as well as finishing brushes for varnish, lacquer, enamel and shellac. Both companies make custom brushes, which is one reason the acquisition made sense for both companies. This allows Gordon to add a new line of custom brushes to its extensive catalog. Gordon is also known for the Redtree Industries line, which serves the marine industry.
What Happens After Midnight?
Pratt & Lambert® Paints announced Heron (27-18) as the brand’s 2018 Color of the Year. This elegant midnight blue becomes the leading color from Beyond, Pratt & Lambert’s full 2018 color forecast, which draws inspiration from today’s cultural influences across fashion, technology, travel, art, and home décor.
“The 2018 color forecast for Pratt & Lambert was created to take our customers on a journey through color, culture, and design, ‘beyond’ what they’ve explored before,” said Ashley Banbury, Senior Designer, Pratt & Lambert Paints. “In our search for serenity in today’s dynamic and often hectic world, we found Heron, our 2018 Color of the Year. It offers calmness, tranquility and adaptability, allowing it to transform an ordinary space into a sanctuary that truly showcases the power of color.”
Found within Intention, the color trend story that encourages finding and experiencing the joy in slow, mindful living, Heron offers the calming effect that is sought out in daily life. It is a versatile blue that provides creative individuals, from interior designers to architects and design-savvy homeowners, an opportunity to create tranquil spaces in styles ranging from traditional to contemporary. In functional spaces like living rooms, this statement blue gives a subtle visual impact with an aura of relaxation. It inspires unplugging and spending more quality time with family and friends.
Heron mixes well with crisp whites, soft grays and metallics and can be paired with materials such as whitewashed wood, burlap, concrete, terracotta, and glazed pottery to further inspire relaxed living spaces.
More colors of the year in future issues!
PPG Marks National Manufacturing Day
PPG hosted events and tours at its facilities across the U.S. to mark National Manufacturing Day and the contribution that manufacturing makes in communities where it operates. The event is organized by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) to address the skilled labor shortage, connect with future generations of manufacturers, and ensure ongoing success of the manufacturing industry.
More than 2,000 events where held by various manufacturers nationwide on and around this year’s designated day of Friday, Oct. 6.
PPG’s events included plant tours and manufacturing demonstrations, panel discussions, and lunchtime speakers for local students and community members.
“For PPG, National Manufacturing Day is about sharing what we do and who we are with the community to inspire the next generation of manufacturers,” said Bryan Iams, PPG Vice President, Corporate and Government Affairs. “PPG’s paint and coatings products protect and beautify many aspects of people’s everyday lives, including their homes, cell phones, cars and the airplanes in which they fly. This innovation and attention to quality begins with our strong manufacturing capability and our innovative employees.”
In honor of National Manufacturing Day, the PPG Foundation announced more than $90,000 in grants, which will support various science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs across the U.S.
Set Your Goals, then Protect Them
A puck going 90 mph can pack a wallop, so PPG, the Official Paint of the National Hockey League (NHL®) is putting its money where its goal mouth is, and is offering industrial coatings that may be used on NHL goal posts. Based on the company’s proprietary powder coating technology, PPG Envirocron® Extreme Protection provides outstanding cold chip resistance for the most challenging automotive underbody end-uses. Now, the same technology can be used to protect hockey goals of the NHL.
“After extensive testing, PPG is proud to provide the high-performing coatings for this challenging application,” said Shelley Verdun, PPG product manager, Industrial Coatings. “From pucks to skate blades, we know that the red paint on NHL goal posts takes a beating. The Envirocron Extreme Protection powder coating system, with its proprietary chip resistant technology in cold environments, will prevent chips, reduce scuffs and reduce maintenance time.”
“We will look to include NHL goal frames with this product in our event properties for the coming season and will continue to explore organic ways that PPG products can be integrated into the fabric of our game and throughout NHL arenas,” said Brian Jennings, NHL executive vice president and chief branding officer.
People are always looking for a way to make their old furniture look great, and by carrying a variety of specialty finishes, you can be the place they go when they want a custom look for their special pieces. The Paint du Coco line, created by Natasha du Coco, offers paints, brushes, finishes, and waxes that make it easy for your customers to get great results and fresh new looks! Great for your imaginative customers, but even beginners can get excellent results that will keep them coming back for more.
Of course Natasha enjoys experimenting with her product line, and she created a technique to transform regular wooden surfaces into a unique barn wood finish. She uses a selection of her Paint du Coco colors such as Swiss Chocolate, Pitch Black, and Victorian Grey, and then a blend of her waxes to seal—and for the finishing touch. Follow the easy directions:
1. The first layer of paint is the Swiss Chocolate.
2. After drying, she applies the rest of the selected colors using the dry brush technique. For this she tips the brush briefly in the paint and with equal brush strokes she applies it until the result is perfect—each of your customers will have a different definition of “perfect.”
3. The next step is to distress certain areas by using a wet cloth in one hand and a dry cloth in the other. Use the wet cloth to wash off the areas you want to look distressed, keeping in mind that you imitate the weathered influences on the surface. Wipe of excess water with the dry cloth.
4. After the surface is completely dry we can start with the finishing touch. Waxing requires some elbow grease, but you will be very happy with the results!
5. Dip your wax brush in dark brown and clear wax and apply on the surface. Buff with a soft cloth till the layers are blended and look smooth.
Voilà! You’ve created your Barn Wood Style the du Coco way!
Years ago there was one house I would walk by that always left its shades up at night to expose a big orange wall in the living room. It was impossible to miss, and more than that, it made me want to know more about the people who lived there and why they painted the room Florida Sunshine Orange. It turned the most mind-your-business walker into a nosy neighbor.
The answer to “why” is probably a lot different now than it was those 30 years ago. It’s hard to miss how colors have been trending bolder, brighter, darker—whatever they’re doing, they’re moving! Where does that leave orange? We had a lot of folks weigh in on this one: who would want it, and why?
2018 could turn out to be a big year for this color, whether you use it for quirkiness or complexity, predicts Ashley Banbury, Senior Designer at Pratt & Lambert. “For 2018, you’re going to see orange trending from fashion to home interiors—it was a prevalent color on the Spring 2018 runways, which will influence color in a home,” she said. “You will see pops of orange being incorporated in accessories from pillows to wall paint.” You may see it in small doses to compliment shades of blue, she noted, but it will also be used monochromatically, where an entire room will use different shades of orange from chairs to walls.
There are lots of ways to combine it to keep a smile on someone’s face. “Red and yellow are mixed together to create orange; yellow itself is a natural warm color that invokes happiness,” she reminded us. “Trending oranges are going to be slightly darker and muted. You will see different shades of orange, some showing a little more of a yellow undertone and some reading more red.” Pair it with blues and mustard yellow to complement those shades, or pair it with navy and red for a bold sophisticated look.
Your way to selling orange may be to show customers these different uses of the color, focusing on how it blends into a 2018 scheme as described above. But first, see how they react—don’t shove it down their throat. “It’s always important to get an understanding of what colors a customer gravitates towards,” Banbury recommends. And remind your grown-up customers that it’s OK to have some fun. “Orange connects people and is a color that is vibrant and inviting,” she described. “Because it combines the cheerfulness of yellow and stimulation of red, it’s a social color that gets people to think and it sparks conversation!”
Add Some Pulp
Hannah Yeo, Benjamin Moore Color and Design Expert, continues with some ways to juice up interest in orange. “Brighter shades are certainly appropriate for kids’ rooms or in commercial spaces, while muted oranges can have a sophisticated look,” she said. “Place it against browns and grays for a cozy, comforting color scheme. Natural wood and metal accents are also great way to infuse into toasty hues.” Still not sure? Start off with some small accents: chairs, table, or front door. “You’ll be surprised how versatile it can be,” said Yeo. You might just surprise those customers who previously ruled it out.
Yeo isn’t surprised, and neither are we after all we’ve heard, that warmer colors are en vogue. The Halloween-Thanksgiving season gives orange a boost—hues from burnt umber to bright orange evoke harvest time. For a year-round orange, pairing it with different hues keeps it fresh and appropriate. “Whites, yellows and young greens with a dose of pale orange signifies spring. Brighter oranges against blue are energetic for hot beach weather,” she said.
“Orange in the home will stay muted, but at the same time, brighten up a bit,” she predicts. “If last year was a warm cognac to terracotta hue, this year the oranges are richer and more saturated—think of exotic spices or ripe papaya. Vibrant yet deeply rooted, these bitter orange hues bring life into any living space.”
For a business, orange might be just the thing to keep customers coming back! “Zesty orange accents will continue its use in commercial spaces,” she said. “A little glimpse of intense orange against all white or all black is undeniably eye catching. The drama it creates transforms a space into an experience.”
Dee Schlotter, Senior Color Marketing Manager at PPG, notes that there are quite a few shades of the color in PPG’s 2018 Global Color Forecast, but not the orange you might expect. “All of the trending oranges in our 2018 forecast are not what most would see as a ‘true’ orange—the happy, bright, energizing hues. The trending oranges actually lean more towards pink hues and are trending in matte and metallic finishes,” she said.
Dee agrees with our other color experts that orange is being seen differently; these new shades are giving it the ability to succeed where it may have been overlooked before. “While the top trending colors for 2018 are darker hues, like the PPG Paints™ 2018 Color of the Year, Black Flame (PPG1043-7), softer, more pinkish-orange hues are trending for 2018 and offer a balance and grounding effect. Although these colors still can evoke happiness, they are less energizing and less distracting than a traditional orange color,” she said.
Take a tour through the PPG Paints 2018 Global Color Forecast and you’ll notice that shift. The colors vary from muted, faded oranges that lean toward a light pink—such as Pale Taupe (PPG1073-3), Bermuda Sand (PPG1074-3), and Suntan (PPG1068-4)—to more saturated, sun-scorched tones and darker brownish-oranges—like Cranapple (PPG1190-5), Summer Sunset (PPG1192-6), or Apple Brown Betty (PPG1062-2). “These shades are toned down versions of orange—as I like to say, we’ve taken the edge off—meaning they are invigorating, but are more modern versions of the clean oranges we saw years ago,” said Schlotter.
Your way to sell this idea, she adds, is to educate and discuss by showing customers new shades and their applications in inspirational photos. They more they explore, they more they might consider orange as a legitimate option. “A customer may want something attention-grabbing and inviting, which orange can exude,” said Schlotter. “However when orange is a recommendation, customers likely think of the traditional, child-like color and may not want the bright, distracting shade. For this scenario, having the names and swatches of trending oranges can open their eyes to different shades that still meet their expectations—but with an unexpected color.”
Disco is Back
How Deep is Your Love” for Orange? The ’70s are influencing 2017, opines Mary Lawlor, Manager of Color Marketing at Kelly-Moore. Browns will be the dominant neutral in 2018, she pointed out, which is good to make sure orange is “Stayin’ Alive.” “This introduces muddied colors like burnt orange into the palette, however, brighter oranges will remain to keep the palette fresh,” she said.
“For a seasonal entry door try a muted darker orange like Pumpkin Pie (HLS4306),” Lawlor suggests. “Keep those pass thru areas like laundry rooms or hallways accented with brighter oranges like Deagsy (KM5401) and Candied Yams (KM5343.)”
Since it’s a happy color, orange can keep the “Good Times” going. “It’s perfect as an accent for someone unsure about adding color to a room. It is timelessly uplifting when used sparingly, as in the back of a cabinet or in stripes on a small wall,” Lawlor concluded.
The beauty of orange is that in many cases it’s unexpected. “Orange for interiors and exteriors tends to be applied as an accent and then heavily influenced by reds, browns and gold,” said Sandy Agar-Studelska, Marketing Manager at Diamond Vogel Paint. “Consumers looking for inspired color reach for colors influenced by orange as they are welcoming and connect so well with nature.” Often, a little goes a long way. “The larger-than-life personality of orange can add a dramatic element to a space, but usually in small doses as it can overwhelm.” Today’s oranges, she noted, are trending darker, saturated and influenced by reds and browns.
Combining orange with a neutral is a great way to kick a room into high gear. “With the popularity of neutrals like gray, many homeowners want accent colors that coordinate well with neutrals. Even dark neutrals and orange-influenced colors are a great choice,” she said.
Outside it can also make a statement, and Sandy pointed to a trend toward rust or cinnamon, especially for front doors (see photo, far left). “Orange is a great color for an exterior front door as it offers a happy and welcoming vibe,” she concluded.
Bridging the Gulf
Emmett Fiore, Senior Color Strategist at Fine Paints of Europe, states that orange is heating up. “Orange is going bolder and off the center line, skewed either to the yellower or redder side,” he observed. “Its brightness makes it a very effective, fun accent color that becomes even brighter when juxtaposeed with shades of grays, blue, brown, and even black.”
Some of us are still recovering from our orange history, he says. Gulf gas station signs have given people a perception of orange that they’re just now coming to terms with—they’re finally breaking free, and the younger generation in particular is leaving the Gulf behind.
“They’ve been weaned on those signs their entire lives and they feel the image problem,” said Fiore. “These are powerful associations and it’s time for a change. Orange, the color of enlightenment, is the perfect venue for their mission statement, so it is being reinvented (skewed off that center line, swerving away from the Gulf station), repossessed, and used creatively by many new companies and individuals to get their message across.
Behold! A new orange and a bold, new generation of orange lovers.”
Perhaps that one house in the old neighborhood was just ahead of its time. Hopefully they haven’t repainted!
Room by Room
We gave color expert and consultant Kristin Summer (of Colors With Kristin in the Boston, MA area), a challenge: how would she use orange in various situations? Or…would she try it at all? Color makes a difference, even past what the eye sees. “Choosing the correct colors for your environment is essential to your health,” she says. “Colors make you feel. They have a strong healing element. Color is one of the key elements of creating energy in a room or space.” Here’s her take on orange in a variety of spaces:
• In a small bathroom: I could see it in a burnt orange, super bold and fun. The powder room should be fun! I’ve done some of my most fun murals in the powder room. One older woman had me do a scene like it was inside a French dance studio—you could see the Eiffel Tower out one of the windows, and lots of drapes in the room. She wanted a full-size painting of her in a tutu—and she was a rather large woman! Her leg was flung over the ballet bar…it was awesome.
• How about a full size bathroom? I would only use orange as an accent, with a teal as your main color. Shades of blue are my “go to” color for the bathroom (if we have to use a blue-grey we can), because I always feel like a bathroom with a shower/tub should be soothing.
• Funeral home: So not, unless we were doing a sky on the ceiling and incorporated small areas of orange.
• Stately bedroom: only if the stately room had a lot of “stately wood” to counter-balance!
• Coffee house: that would be cool, but you’d need to balance the orange out with a lot of brown.
• Home entry: definitely, if it’s a Tuscan style house in a coral shade.
• Candy store: Great idea! Orange can make you hungry, so it is a wonderful idea in a candy store, with black, which will intensify the orange.
• Ceilings: I always use orange when I’m painting skies on ceiling for the drama it brings. Usually just a touch, so as not to take away the soothing effect of the blue sky. But it will just give it a little kick around the edge of the room with some yellow.
“Delivering good customer service is a habit. You know what’s right.”
One day my assistant came in late. Not a big deal….until she came in late two more times that week. The following week the same thing happened again. This was becoming a habit—and not a good one.
We had a short talk about it. I asked her what our mantra was at Shepard Presentations. She said, “To be amazing.” She was right.
So, I asked her, “Is showing up late three or four times a week amazing behavior?”
She gave me the obvious answer, “No.”
I replied, “I agree. This is a habit that must stop. So, you have a choice. Be amazing or go home.”
She smiled and said, “That’s a great title for a book! You better write that down.”
I did, and guess what? It became a book, officially titled Be Amazing or Go Home: Seven Customer Service Habits that Create Confidence with Everyone.
You see, if showing up late is a bad habit, then showing up early is a good habit. Delivering good customer service is a habit. You know what’s right. You practice it day after day on real customers. You get better at it. You may even get special customer service training. And, when it becomes natural, it’s like many other good things you do over and over. It becomes a habit.
When I was just twelve years old I started my own business: magic shows for children’s birthday parties. There were several important habits I picked up from my parents. I wrote thank you notes to the parents that hired me to perform for their child’s party. I always showed up on time. I always did the best job I could, never giving less than 100%. I always stayed a little longer than expected, and the parents really appreciated that. I had to consciously think about doing all of that and more until I did it enough times that it became natural. It became my version of common sense. That’s what makes it a habit.
Those habits as a twelve-year-old magician stayed with me. Today, these habits drive my business. I’ve shared with you a story about my assistant. That’s the first lesson in the book. It’s simply this:
Amazing people show up ready to amaze!
What that means is if the office opens at 8:00, showing up at 8:00 isn’t really showing up on time. It’s getting there on time. Showing up on time, ready to amaze, is arriving early enough to be ready to go at 8:00. There’s a difference.
By the way, my assistant broke the bad habit and started showing up to work on time. She chose not to go home. She chose to be amazing!
Jack Welsh, the highly regarded former CEO of General Electric, used to say, “You can’t grow long term if you can’t eat short term!” It’s hard to argue with that logic. And would I ever be so arrogant as to disagree with the man at the helm of GE while its stock price increased over 4000%? According to my ex-wife, I am that arrogant…and I think I’m about to prove her right! It’s not that I think Jack Welsh was wrong when he said that, it’s just that in the life of an independent paint retailer, I find his statement to be a gross oversimplification.
The food I am eating today (and with a daughter in college, food is almost becoming a luxury) was bought with money I made from my efforts before today! When I make a big sale is generally not when I make my money. No, it’s when I get PAID for that big sale that my daughter and fiancée seem to know it’s time to start circling around while complaining that they need new iPhones!
Even when you get that big “walk-in” sale, it may have happened today, but you were only able to make that sale because of work you did previously. You had the paint in stock because it was previously ordered, you were able to sell it profitably and at the right price to get the sale because you had previously negotiated with the vendor, and you were able to service the sale because you had previously hired enough employees to manage the traffic coming through your store.
So with all due respect to Mr. Welsh, I find myself advising dealers that “if you take time to manage your business for tomorrow, what you eat today will take care of itself.” Managing your business is different than managing your stores: even if you only have one store. And the difference between the two is no small distinction!
Even though my two stores each have managers, I still end up managing the stores from time to time. Whether I am covering a vacation or day off, ordering product if one of them is too busy, helping figure out how to deploy drivers, or counting out the drawer at the end of the day, I cannot take the day-to-day retailer duties totally out of my schedule. If you have one store, I suspect that you do even more of this type of work than I do. Don’t misunderstand me, these are crucial responsibilities and if your business is going to do well in the short term, you need to take them seriously. But no matter your day-to-day obligations in your store(s), you must take time away from managing your stores and spend it managing your business!
How much credit you give one particular customer may be a store manager level decision; but how much credit you have outstanding in total is a higher-level decision that you must leave yourself time to make. Losing control of their accounts receivables is one of the most common (and tragic) mistakes I see dealers make. By failing to manage the total value of all your accounts receivable, you can get yourself into a world of trouble.
Each month, if your A/R gets $10,000 larger because you fail to manage it well, you had better have that $10,000 on hand and ready to invest in your business or you won’t be able to pay your vendors and employees on time. Since total accounts receivable cannot be allowed to grow unfettered, you must leave yourself time to think about how much money you can afford in total, to put “out on the street.” Only then are you able to make the store manager type decisions of how much credit to give one particular customer.
Inventory is another area where you need to leave time to make business level decisions. How many gallons of Regal Flat Base One each store stocks is up to the store managers. But how much inventory in total each store has is my responsibility. I don’t set these figures arbitrarily nor do I “just let them happen.” I need to leave myself time to analyze my sales, look at the product mix, vendor delivery schedules etc. so I can make an informed business decision on inventory spend. By taking time away from managing the stores so that I can spend it on managing the business, I can assign a total inventory spend per store, a crucial decision, without getting into the less than crucial decision of how many 9 x ½ microfiber rollers we stock.
So while you need to spend time managing your stores today, always remember to take time to manage your business for tomorrow and beyond. Remember, it was also Jack Welsh who said; “Any jerk can have short term earnings!” So don’t be a jerk: run your stores like they’re going to be here in 20 years.
The month of October has always been one of my favorite months. The leaves are still changing, and…sports! The St. Louis Cardinals are usually playing post season baseball (wait ’til next year!), my St. Louis Blues still have a chance at Lord Stanley’s Cup, and college and pro football are rolling along.
This year things are a bit different, and hopefully it won’t sully my feelings for this wonderful time of year. On Wednesday morning, Oct. 18th, my mother and owner of this company, Heidi O. Mugler, was called to Heaven. She had battled tirelessly a blood disease, MDS, over the last 8 or 9 years, a disease she contracted from the chemo drugs she had to take while battling breast cancer many years ago. Mom died peacefully and pain free in the city and state she wanted to, Durango, CO., in the care of a brand new beautiful facility, Mercy Hospice House, and on her own terms. My two sisters and I were on our way to see her when she passed. Mom knew we were in transit and had repeatedly told us she did not want any of us to see her on her death bed, so when her Hospice staff reminded her Tuesday night that we would be seeing her Wednesday morning (the next day), she told them she knew we were coming, but that she would not be here when we arrived…and she wasn’t. Mom had all her wishes answered, again on her terms.
To all our readers who own your own companies: if you have not written out and discussed your succession plans with your families and staff, please do it. Many of you won’t know when death comes knocking at your door, and without extensive, well thought out succession plans, nothing but chaos and pandemonium could be the order of the day for your survivors and staff. Whether you choose to leave your business to your spouse, family members, siblings, a trusted member of your staff, or even to the entire staff, ironing out all the details prior to your passing will save everyone involved a ton of heartache! You’ve worked tirelessly to build an empire, or at least a fine business, and passing it on to someone as your final wish can and will change their lives, usually for the better. Consult your attorney for all the legalities that will be necessary to transfer your business to whomever. Make sure that whomever retains your business when you pass is at least aware of your plans so that it is not a shock!
As for a will, if you don’t have one, get to work on one ASAP! Again, having a will locked away in your safe, safe deposit box, or with your attorney will save your loved ones (hopefully) from additional heartache, hand-wringing, second guessing, and infighting. You are probably not going to make everyone happy—someone in your family is almost always going to get the short end in their mind, but you can only do so much while here on terra firma, so do the best you can BEFORE you get your wings.
Dad had a will, and everything went to Mom. Mom’s will is something she worked on for about two years with about 10 different drafts, but in the end, it is exactly what she wanted for her children and trusted friends. I will do my best to honor every wish in her will, I will do everything in my power to run this company to the best of my ability, to the benefit of our readers, our advertisers, and my staff. Mom was a big believer in these magazines. She loved the fact that we try every month to give independents a leg up on the big box stores, and try to help them to be the very best they can be. She may not have understood everything about this business, but she did love being a small part of it!
A display from ArroWorthy; the company can provide you with larger or smaller displays to fit your available space.
How to explain applicator prices
Sticker shock! When Starbucks increases its already inflated prices, it becomes international news. Latte lovers may grumble, but then they’ll pay up and go about their business. Plenty of folks will avoid Starbucks and get their coffee at QuikTrip, but those who want what the Seattle grinder has to offer will swallow the upcharge.
It’s somewhat the same with you; folks who want the products and the atmosphere you have—and when you get down to it, both of those figure into it—will pay the price they need to in order get the products you sell.
Even so, Carl Rumpf, VP of Sales at Premier Paint Roller, argues that newer manufacturing technology lets you carry quality products without having to forklift your customers off the floor after they eye up the price tag. We asked him how to deal with the inevitable customers who will ask about price. “Over $20 for a brush?! I’ll just get the three-for-$10 at Family Dollar.” Surely you’re heard that at least once.
“I agree with the consumer,” he said. “You don’t need to pay over $20 for a paint brush anymore. While I don’t think they should buy the low end three-for-$10 brushes, improvements in manufacturing technology allow the average consumer to purchase professional quality paint brushes for less than $20.”
If your customer is either a DIYer painting just a few square feet or a contractor buying a bagful of brushes for a crew of sixteen, chances are they’ll be thrilled to know you have something to keep them on budget. “Most paint stores carry nylon/polyester or polyester brushes that deliver a professional finish for prices the average consumer can afford. Premier Paint Roller manufactures the BM series, Avant Garde semi oval series, and a plethora of private label options for ALLPRO and many large independent dealers throughout the United States,” said Rumpf.
Easy and Pretty? Pretty Easy!
Another solution, adds Ben Waksman, President of Corona Brushes, is to fully explain to the customer what they are paying for. Make sure they know how springing for that better brush will make their project easier—and prettier! If they’ve already got quality paint, why waste it on bad bristle and a faulty ferrule?
“A better quality tool helps the user achieve better results,” he says in a nutshell, so let’s crack that shell and see what’s inside. “The application will be much easier and the finish more pleasing. And, of course durability is a factor.”
Walnuts, pecans, whatever you’ve cracked, it’s time to explain why you’re not nuts to sell a higher priced applicator—you’re selling know-how along with it. “We use the finest raw materials, but we also have to process, blend, and formulate the materials to make them the most effective in paint pick up, cutting in, spreading the coating evenly, and leaving a smooth finish,” said Waksman. “After that, we work on matching types of lumber and shapes of handles to insure optimum balance and comfort. In selecting a Corona tool, the painter is not just buying a good brush. He or she is investing in a good paint job.” And that’s it, again, in a nutshell. It’s not just a brush. It’s a paint job.
Sell Confidence With Confidence
Surely you know some painters who bonded with a brand they liked 25 years back—end of discussion. If you don’t have it, do you send them to the dealer next door who does? Or again, do you explain?
With Corona, says Waksman, you can be confident in the brand, therefore you can inject that confidence into your customer. “Dealers know they can sell Corona handmade painting tools with complete confidence in customer satisfaction,” he asserted. “We appreciate that painters build brand loyalties, both to paint and to the brushes and rollers they use, and we work hard to earn that loyalty,” he continued.
Since part of your job of helping them pick the right tool for the job, if you can demonstrate that the brush you have will get the job done, they might just save some time and gas and buy right off your display!
“Paint has changed dramatically over the last few years,” Rumpf reminds us. “As a result, the applicators have had to adapt to today’s coatings. Professional paint store employees are trained to offer the proper tools to be used with the brand of paint they are selling.”
Too Much is Not Enough
Then there’s that exasperated customer: “Last time I came here you had 10 brushes to pick from and now you have 27! How do I begin?”
It goes back to adapting to changing paints, of which there are more and different varieties than there were the last time that customer bought a brush in 1997. “There are many kinds of applicators because there are many variances in quality and sheens of paint,” Rumpf explained. “Also the texture of the surface has to be taken into consideration before you can buy the proper tool for your intended project. Other key factors to consider are the customer’s budget and if they want to reuse the applicators.” Buy asking these questions, you can help them narrow down to just the right product.
Not to mention, adds Waksman (well, we are going to mention it), a larger selection helps the pro or DIY customer slip in with just that right tool. He agrees with Carl that the can of paint you sell can answer the question of what brushes and rollers to take along.
“There are differences in paints, whether in the viscosity of interior and exterior paints, alkyds, acrylics, latex, hybrid-waterborne-alkyds, enamels, varnish, stains, and more. The wide range of materials actually provides the painter, whether professional or not, the best possible applications of this wide variety of coatings,” he said. Corona offers guides for you to post near your display to help customers choose. For example:
• Natural bristle for solvent based finishes.
• Natural bristle and ox-ear hair for solvent based ultra-fine finishes.
• Performance Chinex® synthetic filament for high viscosity acrylics, waterborne finishes and primers and all coatings.
• 100% nylon for latex paints (especially Corona’s Champagne Nylon for water-based alkyd hybrids).
• Nylon/polyester blends for all interior and exterior paints.
“Our guides are available for our customers to display next to brush walls or as part of a brush wall,” said Waksman. Keep an eye out for updated guides as new paints and coatings demand new brushes and rollers.
The more educated your customers, the better choices they can make—including that amazing choice to get their next applicators from you, whether it’s next week or the year 2037.
Aspen, Colorado evokes a certain type of lifestyle, even if you’ve never been there. Snow, skiing, mountains, tourists, healthy snacks, and clean living. High priced living too, while we’re at it, which is why business owner Sam Taylor moved Summit Paint and Decorating out of Aspen and 18 miles up State Highway 82 to Basalt, Colorado. Basalt offered him twice the space at half the rent. He became a Benjamin Moore Signature Store and is now in line to become a Benjamin Moore “Store of the Future.”
Speaking of future, in the very near future this store is moving again—across the hall to the front of the building instead of the back. Again, more space, less hassle. “We’ll be right off the main street so customers won’t have to come around and park in the back,” he said. You know how customers can be, one more turn in the parking lot and you’ve lost ’em.
Basalt is a growing city of almost 4.000, with an official altitude of 6,611. Summit serves that community, of course, but also serves as a hub for Apsen and surrounding communities including Snowmass, Missouri Heights, and Glenwood Springs. There aren’t a lot of big box stores around—none on the 40-mile route between Glenwood Springs to the north and Apsen to the south—and Sam prides himself on being “built for speed.” Contractors who work in Aspen often don’t take to its high rent, so they live north of Basalt and drive past Summit on their way down. “They come down 82, get loaded up here and away they go,” he said. If a painter calls in advance, they can pare the visit down to just a few minutes—pay at one window, load at the next, and get to work.
The store is very “lived in,” but it was also getting ready to uproot—even if they don’t need a truck, there’s a lot of poundage to move from one spot to the other. As you’d expect in Colorado, a large portion of this shop is devoted to exterior stains; there’s a separate room to house the various brands. As the area grows, people come in from all over—often people who have invested a lot of money into a home and want it to blend in with the surroundings. They certainly don’t want their house to spoil the view! After all that investing, they get picky about their stain.
While Summit carries Benjamin Moore paint almost exclusively, its stain section is a smorgasbord of treats from around the country. “We carry Cabot, Messmer’s, Penofin, Superdeck, and Sikkens,” Sam noted. They also do a good business with Colorado-based Sashco’s Log Home product line. The wide brand selection is a must in serving the diverse clientele, some of whom only live here part of the year. “We get asked for a lot of different products,” Taylor explained. “A guy who lives in New York and has a cabin in Missouri Heights wants a stain he knows from the east coast, but a customer from the west might want Penofin. We have Benjamin Moore’s exterior stains as well.”
You have to read a customer, however, and try to sell the stain or paint that fits financially as well as aesthetically. It might be futile to try selling a $59 gallon of paint to someone who has to watch their dollars. If it’s a builder on a big condo project, they’ll want a good product but something affordable at the same time. Part of Summit’s success is selling the product that fits the customer’s budget as well as the project.
Part of that is selling samples to color-hungry customers, and Taylor goes through them at a rate that even confounds the folks at Ben Moore HQ in Montvale. People want to make sure they like their color and they’ll spare no time or expense to get it right. “We sell more quarts and samples than any store in the country,” Taylor asserts, adding that pint-sized sampled will be available soon. “We start ordering from Ben Moore and they’ll say are you sure you want that many? It’s typical for a decorator to go through 20 quarts to pick a color. Our record is over 100.”
Taylor clocks in 29 years behind the counter. He got a degree from the University of Colorado, and he filled up his semester breaks as a painter and carpenter. “After college I worked for some of the municipalities in the Denver area, then I got into a paint store because it had health benefits,” he said. “I was active in football and skiing and needed the benefits, so I switched out of municipal work and went into construction, which at the time offered health. Then I was offered a job in Glenwood Springs managing a paint store and have done paint ever since.”
The importance of health benefits is not lost on him, and he offers that to his employees now. “They’re active. They motorcycle, ski…so it’s important. I needed them when I was younger and I realize their need for it as well.”
His 29 years has made its mark on the community and offers some stability in a rapidly changing environment. “I have the longevity and the trustworthiness of being local,” he said. Staffer Cody Diaz is also a known quantity—he first came to Summit in 2002, while newcomer Richard Marques was in his first month on the job at the time of our visit (August 2017) with plans to stay around. “We have a lot of knowledge and customer service, and we’re fast and effeicnt. That’s what keeps us going,” said Taylor. “We have everyone from the painter to the laborer to the ultra-rich coming to choose colors, or they’ll hire a decorator. We set up a retail area so customers can be comfortable in the decorating section, but painters and contractors can pick up bulk items in the back.”
He emphasizes again the need for speed. “Fast, cheap, easy, and yesterday,” he smiles.
Catch Me Outside
Cody Diaz needs that health insurance. He likes four-wheeling, paint-balling, fishing, and hunting. When he’s not working, he and his family are often on an outdoor adventure. From his home in Rifle, Colorado, 15 minutes any which way and you’re away from it all in the mountains, he points out.
While he started at Summit in ’02, his retail experience includes six years’ leave of absence managing a store for a large national paint chain, perchance a chain with a hyphenated name, before returning to Summit a couple years back. Of course, we had to ask what he liked better, even (or especially!) with the boss in the room. And of course, he noted that at this store, he’s treated like a human being. “Sam is a real person who cares about his employees,” Cody said. “At Sherwin-Williams, all their employees are is a number. I sold $12.5 million and once they were done with me it was easy for them to part ways. There were things going on with my family at the time, and they didn’t treat me like a person.” Even so, he notes, he learned a lot from that experience and it’s helped him work better at an independent.
Cody’s t-shirt (above) shows the easy-going atmosphere here, in that Sam and customers aren’t worried about what he puts on when he makes his hour commute from Rifle to get to work at 6:30. They aren’t worried about Richard’s tattoos or his turquoise earrings. Diaz likes the constant change among the daily paint milieu. “Every day it seems like you’re doing the same thing but it’s always something different,” he said. One of his favorite facets of the job, fortunately, is color matching. “I picked it up really well. I can do it for stain, paint, faux, plaster, glazes, whatever needs it.” Over the years he’s become fascinated with the drip of tint into the can of paint and he’s taken several amazing photographs of that coalescence, including the one in this article and on the cover. Quite the impressionist!
Color matching at Summit is done with a bit of eye and a bit of computer, he said. “We scan the color in the spectrophotometer to get a formula that’s close, then we use our eyes to find the color in the formula book that’s close, then we use those formulas to come up with one of our own. We’re perfectionists here,” he said. “It doesn’t leave the store if it doesn’t match.” These days customers don’t even want the color they originally bought, they want the color it faded into, providing an additional matching challenge.
Even if it’s not old and faded, many people want a color they can call their own, They want a color called The Martinez Living Room or Countess Razumovsky’s Kitchen Window.
“Decorators love to take the top color of the card, cut it in half, and make it off white, but it’s custom to them,” said Diaz. Which is good, because it’s likely that Razumovsky Brown won’t be available anywhere else. Brown is very popular, he added, as it helps a structure blend in with the surroundings.
Another issue they deal with here is altitude. Most paint is made to perform at sea level, not the mile or two up that you find in Colorado. “Here you’re a mile closer to the sun and it bakes finishes,” Cody said. “Paint that is supposed to last five years will last only two or three, especially on the south side of a structure.” Painters with maintenance contracts need to keep track of where and when. “They do the north every four years and the south every two,” he explained. This makes selling the right product important, and also emphasizes the need for quality. “If it’s a home exterior in Aspen we try to sell our best paint. We don’t want to go with a lower grade of paint. It may not perform as well.”
Gotta Start Somewhere
Then there’s “the new guy,” the guy everyone is afraid to buy paint from, but a new guy has to start somewhere and Summit is a good training ground. Richard Marques, now 28, spent five years as a pro mover driving a 40-foot box truck. Earlier this year he took a mosquito control job in Aspen. “Cody hit me up about a month ago with a job offer and I started here,” he said.
Following in Cody’s footsteps, Richard’s picked up paint matching quite handily. “It’s great to have Cody and Sam here to ask them questions. I’m learning from two pros instead of one person teaching me one way,” he said. He’s still got a lot to learn, so no, they don’t put him out with a customer and say “go,” but he knows what he doesn’t know and how to find out the answer.
“Out of all my jobs, this is my most relaxed,” he said. “I get treated better here being new than as someone at an established company after five years.”
Up next? Moving the inventory to the new spot, so he should be right at home.
Coming to the Bridge, But Not Crossing It
One reason it’s important for customers to have their product “yesterday” is because getting it tomorrow is not guaranteed. A state known for its ski seasons and snow can put up a lot of barriers to timely delivery. Basalt is a bit out of the way on a good day, and on a snowy week, good luck. “Freight is a constant problem because it can take days to get material,” Taylor noted. “If someone runs short on a job and can’t get a product, and then we have to tell them it won’t be here for two or three days, it slows the job down. It’s not like Denver where you can drive across the city and get it someone else. There is a limited number of vendors, so when something runs out it is out for a few days.”
In the winter, mountain passes get closed, there are rock slides on occasion, and what nature doesn’t do, humanity can complicate. The week after our visit, the bridge from
Glenwood Springs to the Aspen area was going into three months of closure. There was going to be a one-lane detour which was going to make the trip significantly longer, keep some trucks from making the journey at all, and Cody and Richard would have to get up even earlier to get to work on time.
But once it’s fixed, they’ll get there…fast, easy and yesterday.