Reflections and Recollections—TPD’s 25th Anniversary

By Jerry Rabushka,

  Filed under: Feature

Twenty five years, or a quarter century, however you like to put it, gives you time to look back on changes (or lack of them) across your life and your world. The paint industry comes down squarely on the side of change, to how we make paint, how we apply it, how we learn about it, and how we sell it. Long-time companies have been acquired by other long-time companies, and in many cases what used to be a corporation is now a “brand” or simply a sign in an antique store. At the same time, new companies are starting up all the time with creative solutions to problems we’ve had for over a century.

There’s been a change in how we report on it, since those past 25 years have had The Paint Dealer to keep folks in the US and Canada up to speed.

We could make this article all about us, but we’re not—just part of it! It’s been our job to share perspectives of the many players in the industry, and this anniversary gives us one more chance to look back, look out, and look ahead.

We’re not the only ones who’ve been around 25 years, that’s in fact a drop in the five-gallon bucket compared to some other venerable organizations, some who have been branding product since the 18th century. In honor of our milestone issue, we asked several folks in the industry to comment on the then and the now. It might not seem like much, as things happen one month at a time—but looking back, we can see the wallop that’s in some cases bludgeoned this industry straight from the 19th Century into the 21st.

Take a look at some thoughts on the past 25 years—and we’ll be honest as we always are—we asked for nice comments to share about The Paint Dealer’s contribution to the industry. It’s our party, after all!


Simple Change

We had a conversation with Dan Passinault, PPG director of product innovation and simplification. Keeping things simple and innovative can be a daunting task, and we’re sure Dan’s up to it!

Q. Dan, you’ve been around awhile, we know this because we’ve been quoting you in stories for a long time. What are some of the more important changes we need to look at from over the past 25 years?
A. Being in the paint industry for more than 25 years, I find it fascinating that an industry that has been around for hundreds of years can continue to evolve as much as this one has. Products continue to evolve for greater performance and ease of use. In addition, end use customers, including both professionals and DIYers, continue to evolve in their product performance expectations and how they are willing to interact with products, which become drivers of choice and loyalty.

Q. Is all this change good for dealers?
A. Independent dealers are an increased resource in the marketplace for pro customers across the commercial, residential, and industrial segments. These segments present expanded sales opportunities for dealers, because these customers respond well to local service and supply.

Q. And the more things stay the same…?
A. While we will continue to see changes, an area that was true 25 years ago and holds true today is that customers want quality products and quality service, which are both areas where the independent dealer has excelled. Additionally, I know one thing will remain constant for PPG and for our network of independent retailers—this industry has been and will always be a people business. Strong and reliable partnerships between PPG, our brands, and our dealers is a critical component to success. Our relationships extend from our dealers to our dealers’ relationships with their customers. These relationships are what help business grow and earn customer loyalty.

Q. Just as important as where we’ve been, where are we going?
A. In the next 25 years, I think the paint industry will be drastically different, just as the industry is different than it was 25 years prior to today. While I don’t have a Magic 8-Ball, I predict that manufacturers and independent dealers will work to consolidate their product offering to the best, most effective and innovative products. This will help customers easily choose what’s right for the particular job, and feel less overwhelmed with too many options.

Q. So paint is getting better still?
A. Yep! Technology will continue to evolve in the areas of performance, sustainability, and application in ways we can’t predict. This will create shifts in our industry and the added properties that paint will provide to functionality, color and protection.

From a service perspective, the use of online tools for accessing information and ordering products is in its very early stages and is certain to evolve, as consumers browse and shop paint digitally now more than ever. Customers want more convenience and we need to continue to be looking for the ways we can make it easier for them to shop color and products.

Q. How has PPG responded?
A. PPG continues to evolve in order to drive innovation in the industry and serve our customers in the best way possible. This includes constantly evaluating our products so we can be more innovative, as well as advancing our technical support and providing value to professionals and DIYers, as well as to our network of independent dealers, to help them get the job done right.


It’s not a Chip, It’s a Lifestyle

When we first met Mark Woodman over 20 years ago, he was on board with Duron Paints, an east coast casualty of consolation. Woodman spent time with the Sherwin-Williams company after it acquired Duron, and has since been a color consultant, including serving a term as past president of the Color Marketing Guild. If it’s been a trend, Mark has either watched, it, reported on it, or even picked out the colors! Now, he notes, color is marketed as much as a lifestyle accessory as a collection of drips from a dispenser.

Q. Since paint stores sell, more or less, color and décor, paint being the means of transfer, what are some of the changes we’ve seen as far as how we market and perceive this color and décor?
A. I still find one of the paradigm shifts was the rethinking of paint color as “lifestyle.” I credit Martha Stewart and Ralph Lauren for leading the charge on that. The marketing was amazing and altered how consumers perceived the paint they put on their walls (or had applied by professionals).

I remember some Ralph Lauren color cards that had more “story” photographs than color samples! It was not a sand color, it was a journey across the Serengeti. White became the crest of a wave off Bondi Beach, and light blue conjured a simple life, with fresh eggs from the family farm.

Q. How did that influence the rest of us?
A. Many others followed, some successful and others forgotten, but it marked a moment in time that was key to the development of color stories. In the world of color, as designers, we have always known and talked of the transformative power it can have in a space or on a building. Thanks to Martha and Ralph, we gained a larger stage on which to share that passion. Color became destination and aspiration through their branding, images and marketing.

Q. What about life beyond Martha? Where are we headed, with or without her, and is it a good thing?
A. Technology will play a bigger role, so many changes will come in as to how coatings will interact with our technologies and be part of the tech. My paint will become my router, antenna, and perhaps replace my cable connection. Trim paint could be the wifi conduit for a whole structure (now weak spots!). It will become luminescent, casting a soft glow over a space before “normal” lighting is turned on, acting as a night light, of sorts.

For that matter, my walls will read my mood and adjust their color to add calm, excitement, etc. Or, I will have the tech to “dial a color” and I can change the look at whim. In terms of health, the question will be “how healthy can we make the coatings without sacrificing aesthetics?”

Q. Is this already happening?
A. Some technologies are already in place to fight bacteria, but the palettes are limited. We will eventually have a bacteria fighting coating in navy blue. To go further in home, our coatings will have actual thermal properties, and be able to breathe. They will protect a structure without encapsulating it, help control moisture, temperature and act as air purifiers, both inside and out.


As Time Rolls and Brushes On

Corona has us beat by more they two, it’s got 55 years in the trade. You can see that the company was celebrating its 30th anniversary in the vintage ad reproduction that follows this article. Ben Waksman, company president, noted that Corona has seen and responded to its share of changes in paints, applicators, and how and where they are sold.

Q. What changes stand out to you?
A. One of the biggest changes we have seen in this industry in our 55 years of business is the ever-changing coatings. Coatings change with trends to meet the needs of the market and to meet the painters’ wants. Paint formulas have also been altered to meet environmental rules and standards. Popularly, coatings have been created with varying viscosities for different applications. Some are thin and others are thick, some are fast drying, and others meet very specific needs.

Another change since the beginning of Corona are the types of retail locations that carry paints and applicators. At the start, the majority of paint outlets were independent. Today, independents compete with a lot of mass merchants and big box stores and chains.

When it comes to applicators, an obvious change is increasing usage of synthetic filament brushes and rollers. Because of the drop in the use of oil-based paints and rise of waterbase paints, synthetic filaments dominate the market. Corona still manufactures a complete line of natural China bristle brushes, but less and less as the years pass.

Q. How have you responded to all these changes to keep up to date?
A. With the changes in coatings, Corona responds by always manufacturing a handmade tool for every job and every coating. Corona has developed brushes and rollers that bring out the best features of the coatings. We tend to specialize in just the right flex in the brush and just the right density for best paint pick up as well as release. It’s not just getting the brush or roller to load up with paint but to apply it smoothly, render greater coverage, and provide a smooth finish, whether the coating is flat, satin, eggshell, semi-gloss or high gloss.

Q. Are you sticking with the independent?
A. Even with rising business through big box stores, Corona’s policy is to support independent paint dealers. We are a family owned company and we enjoy doing business with the family owned and independent paint dealers. There is a customer service and product knowledge offered to their customers that you will just not find at a big box store.

Q. 2017 wouldn’t be complete without a discussion of online business, of course!
A. There have been big changes on how we do business due to the internet. It offers a new level of communication, as well as new ways to buy products. Some of our dealers are selling online and growing their store business that way.

Corona responds to the internet trends by taking knowledge available through blogs and other types of communication. We are constantly receiving emails from painters asking questions about our tools. The communication is fun as well as instructive and we can always send them to a dealer where they can buy Corona. We also read with interest the many blogs in which painters will discuss their work and their favorite tools.

All these forums add to the wealth of available information. They provide more ways of learning information or relaying information. Still, you can’t replace good old one on one, face to face communication and the knowledge you can gain by walking into an independent paint dealer.


Paint, Tape, and Beyond

3M has an overview of many markets beyond paint, and it sees improved products and technologies in our faster world as positives—along with the education that goes into it. 3M has been instrumental in moving many of these products forward.
Donald Meyer, U.S. Business Director, 3M Construction & Home Improvement Markets, answered our questions.

Q. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in this last quarter century?
A. Over the past 25 years, we have seen technology driving sundries to places that no one would have imagined. For example, in the past, pro painters only used tan tape for masking, but today’s painter can have six or seven different types of masking and painter’s tapes to choose from. Innovative companies will continue to increase the breadth of their product lines—products have become more specialized to help pro painters do their job better, faster and easier more safely.

Q. Looking forward…where do you think this industry is headed over the next 25 years?
A. We think the retail footprint is likely to get smaller in the future, with eCommerce leading the way. Also, manufacturers will continue to innovate in the way they communicate and educate painters and contractors. Real-time access to information will become the norm. From a sundries point of view, products will continue to become easier to use thanks to additional technological improvements.

Q. How has 3M responded to changes in the industry over the past 15-25 years?
A. At 3M, innovation is at our core. We have prioritized constant investment in R&D and education and in our brands. Additionally, we leverage consumer insights to help us understand our customers and the paint industry, and we turn this knowledge into product innovation.

Through consumer insights, 3M has created products and portfolios designed to save contractors time in their prep activities. Examples include new products such as ScotchBlue™ Platinum™ Painter’s Tape, 3M™ Pro Grade Precision Sanding Sponges and 3M™ Hand-Masker™ M3000 dispenser to help pro painters save time and work faster.

Meyer concluded, “3M will continue with this winning model.”

So will The Paint Dealer, as we will build and change ourselves along with all the paint industry. We thank our readers, advertisers, reps, publicists, experts, analysts, and anyone else who has helped us or benefitted from us along the way.


What’s an anniversary without some congratulations?


Congratulations to the team at The Paint Dealer on its 25th anniversary! Hans and his team are obviously doing something right to be around that long. Santint has been advertising with them for the last few years and we are very happy with the results. Since they are the premier publication for our biggest customer base—the independent paint dealer—it is a logical choice for us to spend a majority of our advertising dollars with them. Thanks to Jerry, Melissa, Kathy and all who work hard to get the information out each month. Keep up the great work!

Dave Christiansen, Director of Sales and Operations
Santint USA, Inc.


Congratulations to The Paint Dealer on its 25th anniversary! Where does the time go? What changes have we seen? Like The Paint Dealer itself, the independent paint and decorating dealer network is still going strong and getting stronger. We have watched the big box stores come and go, we have seen sales of clothing, electronics and home fashion move to the internet, but one thing is for sure—the paint and decorating dealer is here to stay.

Both the professional paint contractor and the DIY consumer still appreciate the special care and service they receive when they shop at your store. The Paint Dealer, for 25 years, has been a resource for the independent retailer, whether it be advice on running your business or giving you the insight on the best and newest sundry items. Again congratulations on 25 years and your continued support of the Independent Paint Dealer!

Jeffrey T. Spillane
Senior Manager Training Implementation
Benjamin Moore


The Paint Dealer has been a great source of knowledge, delivery, and valuable information in a humorous and interesting way. We have enjoyed reading and supporting The Paint Dealer for the first 25 years, and look forward to the next 25.

Ben Waksman, President, Corona Brushes, Inc.


As a small paint manufacturer making a niche product, even though we have been around for more than 40 years, it is sometimes hard to feel noticed in the vast sea of conventional paints out on the market, often with large, splashy ads and common household names. The Paint Dealer has been a friendly, informative avenue that allows us to introduce our old world paints to potential new retailers, and acknowledges our contribution to the paint world.

The paint industry has changed dramatically since our humble beginnings in 1974, and especially so over the past 25 years. We appreciate the support that we’ve been given from The Paint Dealer, and wish you all the greatest success in the next 25 years!

Anne Thibeau, President, Old Fashioned Milk Paint


On behalf of everyone at ArroWorthy & Blue Dolphin we would like to congratulate The Paint Dealer on its 25th. Keep up the great work!

Roland Kolilias, Vice President, ArroWorthy; President, Blue Dolphin Sundries


PPG shares common values with The Paint Dealer in that we both place tremendous value on our relationships with independent dealers—some which span 25 years or more. We both work hard every day to be a great partner to dealers and provide the best support possible. PPG is proud to continue to work with The Paint Dealer, which provides independent dealers up-to-date resources and information they need to be successful in an ever-changing industry landscape.

Dan Passinault, Director of Product Innovation, PPG


Thanks for your trust in and broad-minded support of the industry. You, Jerry, show a deep trust in what we are discussing in the industry and your support of our thoughts and ideas has always been there. It’s in that support that I think you really shine. You not only seek and admire new ideas for an article or feature, but support the individuals and companies that strive to expand the world of architectural coatings and color knowledge. Everyone gets a fair stab at having a voice. You know it’s the many voices (oh, so many voices) that create balance and enrich content, and you offer a platform of sharing.

Mark Woodman, CMG. Owner, Mark Woodman Design & Color


CONGRATULATIONS to The Paint Dealer and The Paint Contractor! We (I think I speak for everyone) love what you’ve been doing the past 25 years!! Thank you Jerry, Hans & company! Keep up the great work!!

Emmett Fiore, Senior Color Strategist, Fine Paints of Europe


The Paint Dealer is a paint color enthusiast—believing in the power of color selling paint by promoting the color story in so many different ways. Great job, and here’s to another 400 issues!

Dee Schlotter, PPG Senior Color Marketing Manager, Architectural Coatings North America