Against the Odds

By Jerry Rabushka,

  Filed under: Dealer Profile, Feature

A new paint store as a second business

If there’s one piece of advice we’ve heard over the years, it’s “Don’t open a paint store.” And it’s no secret that independent paint dealers have hit more than their share of potholes in today’s environment of competition and consolidation. Garrett and Melody Farrar ignored that sage advice, and with practically no experience in the paint industry they started up NOCO Paint & Design in Windsor, Colorado a little over a year ago. NOCO stands for Northern Colorado; Windsor is near Fort Collins, a little more than an hour’s drive north of Denver.

The vast majority of product is from Benjamin Moore, and obviously you’re not going to get them to invest into you if you just ring up Montvale and say, “I want to open a paint store,” so this odds-defying duo must have had something to offer.

For one, they know how to run a business. Garrett is RV Manager at family-owned NOCO RV Sales in nearby Loveland. They wanted to open another business to play a more active role in their community and also to bring an independent paint store to an area that didn’t have one. “We knew people who know about paint,” said Garrett, “so we had it set up.”

Melody continued the thought as the Farrars and their children gathered in the back of the store for our interview. “There was only one independent paint store in Northern Colorado, so we thought ‘why not bring Benjamin Moore up here as well?’” she said. “It was sold in the hardware store, but not in a dedicated paint store. We though it was a good idea—but we literally knew nothing about paint!”

Business experience already taught them: for outstanding results, hire a great team. “The people I work with have been doing paint,” said Garrett, telling us that two of his staff were lured away from other paint departments where they felt they’d gone as far as they could go. Farrar promised them more freedom to try out their ideas—and better pay.

“Chris Lynn [sales rep] comes from Sherwin-Williams where he worked his way up to assistant manager,” said Garrett. “He was tapped out, and he didn’t have a whole lot of future there. Here, the sky’s the limit.” Store Manager Jordan Daniels came from Jax Ranch & Home; he was intrigued by the opportunity to work in a smaller family-style environment. A.J. Hupp rounds out the staff, doing everthing from marketing to deliveries.

The men on staff enjoy the luxury of having a boss who listens to them, and Garrett says that at NOCO, suggestions often come from the ground up. “They give me a lot of ideas,” he said. “They see the potential and the future and they ask ‘what about this or that?’” Combining their paint expertise with Farrar’s business acumen, they can mix and tint a strategy to move forward and keep this new business successful.

Plus it gives Farrar the time and freedom to sell RVs. He doesn’t have to worry that the store will fall apart if he’s not there for an hour; he stays in communication remotely and sometimes he stops in just once a week.

 

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Hey Everyone, We’re Here!

It’s a lot about support, including support of the locals, once they realize—and remember—that the store is there. “Our biggest challenge is letting people know we’re here. Everyone has Home Depot in their head,” says Garrett. “We even struggle with friends. They go to Home Depot to buy paint when they know we have a paint store! Then they say ‘oh, we could have gone to you, you’re closer.’ But they just have Home Depot in their head.” On the other hand, he notes, Windsor is really into the shop local movement, and a growing number of people are supporting the store for that reason.

Add to that the famed Three Most Important Factors in Real Estate: location, location, and location. Windsor has practically quadrupled in size over the last 35 years and it’s slated to quadruple again. Farrar muses that what used to be a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it drive-thru will probably hold 100,000 by the time it’s full up. This means there is a lot of paint to sell, and a lot of people moving in from back east who are familiar with Benjamin Moore. Fort Collins, the bigger city in the area, has grown about as much as it has room for, Garrett estimates. “Fort Collins has been ranked one of the top places to live every year since the ’90s,” he says. The popularity of the area has brought a lot of people to boom up the outskirt towns.

Melody adds that they give a lot of credit to Benjamin Moore for helping get the word out, and the staff for doing the footwork to get new customers. Everyone has something to gain.

Color helps bring people in as well. Garrett will tell you that Benjamin Moore has the best color selection on the market. “They do a good job of putting colors together for people who don’t know what goes with what. Their brochures and color schemes make our life easier.”

“We tend to do things a little off kilter,” Melody smiles. “We really like to be community oriented.” Good service is imperative these days, what with so many customers leaving online reviews. “We get a lot of ratings based on our service, and we do anything we can to add value to our customers’ experience.”

 

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Now, About Paint

When it comes to talking about paint, paint, and paint, Chris, Jordan, and A.J can shoot that breeze. “The most important thing is knowledge,” says Chris, who’s got about 8 years of paint biz behind him. “We show them how to do it correctly. We make sure they have what they need, know how to apply it, and are comfortable with products and techniques.” It’s not really a different customer from Home Depot, he says, so much as how they approach that customer. “We see them as people and not just as dollars,” he assures us.

Not only that, but working for an independent gives him a chance to form better relationships with customers. “We have more one on one time with them. We don’t have goals and numbers and it’s more personal.” Since they were there when the store started, they helped design the layout and determine the inventory. “We figured out what the market needed and brought that in,” he said.

And what if something goes wrong, what do you do? “We do better!” Jordan insists. “We dig in and do some research to find out what the problem was and how to solve it.”

 

Dream Building

If there’s one thing Garrett and Melody are still working out, it’s how to be partners in marriage and business at the same time. “It’s a learning process for sure,” said Melody.

“You have to learn that work is at work and home is at home. There are times we’ve had a big disagreement at home and then when we’re at work and we just sit there and get our jobs done—but we know we’ll get through it!”

And while they enjoy each other’s company, each has their own athletic interests in off hours. Garrett likes to jet-ski and Melody does triathlons, even though this year she had to invest more time in the business than the track. Daughters Kalilah and Anaya enjoy dancing, and son Ezra hasn’t decided what he likes to do. (Maybe he’ll sell paint!) They often take advantage of the nearby scenery. “We get out a lot as a family,” Melody said. “It’s just a beautiful area here.”

Both their families are there to support; everyone stays in contact to make sure all possible gaps with NOCO Paint and NOCO RV are filled in. “The RV business includes his mother, my grandfather, and my sister, so it’s very family,” said Melody. “They are there when we need them to be there. Garrett’s a dream builder,” she testified. “He builds dreams, and he has a team behind him. They have a vision and are working towards it.” nocopaintstore.com