Keeping it Creative

By mirandalipton,

  Filed under: Dealer Profile, Feature

Ohio dealer’s long-term employees keep up with the times.

Through the ever-changing trends, fads, brands and products that exist within the paint industry, things—such as good service and good advice—still never change! Creative Paints has been independently catering its business and services to the people of Columbus, Ohio and surrounding area since 1964.

John Vickers bought the company around 1980 and under his leadership that one store expanded to five scattered locations in or near the city of Columbus, Ohio’s state capital and its largest city. Vickers first expanded in ’92, bought out an existing store in ’99, and had his most recent addition in 2001—all while maintaining an emphasis on quality products and top notch customer service.

“Being independently owned and operated makes customer service our number one quality, which sets us apart,” said Jayson Harper, manager of the Worthington, OH location, about 15 minutes’ drive north of Columbus. Plus, customers can be sure that whoever is behind the counter knows about paint. “We only have one group of people who work during all hours every day so that knowledge and customer service is there each day from open to close,” he said.


The Same Difference

Four of the locations are identical, with the fifth designated as a decorator shop. That location, based in Clintonville (also slightly north of Columbus), is staffed with two decorators who offer color, wallpaper, and home design consultation as well as installations of window treatments.

While they strive to create a good atmosphere for customers, the company is a great place to work as well. Creative Paints has about 30 employees across its five stores, many of whom have been with the company for decades. Harper started as a high school student who needed a job, without much thought for the future of his career. As he put it…“Once I got in, I got the bug and now I’m 21 years in and not looking back. It’s been a good business.”

And he’s just getting started…according to Creative Paints president Barbara Pruden, John Vickers’ 21 years is on the lesser side of managerial experience in
these stores.

:Most of our managers have been here 30-plus years,” Pruden said. “Employing people who have experience being color matchers has been tough, especially in the past few years. We are lucky that we have at least two people at every store that have been here 15-plus years.”


34 and Counting…and Changing

Pruden started working in the business thirty-four years ago when it was a one-store and five-employee operation. She now manages the day-to-day activities over all the stores, as Vickers stepped back from the company three years ago. Both Pruden and Harper spoke to the unquantifiable level of change seen in the stores since they started: all of it technological.

“Everything has definitely gotten more modern, and everything is computerized…literally everything,” Harper said. “From tinting paint to looking up products, when I started 21 years ago we would pick up a book and everything would be in there. Now we use internet tools for anything and everything, and the back warehouse is all automated. We all didn’t want to make the change at first but once we did it, life really became much easier. In the big spectrum of things, painting is an archaic thing. It’s been going on forever and that side of it hasn’t changed”

Much of Pruden’s family has found work here; the majority of her ten nephews have cast anchor at Creative at some point. She appreciates the effort that they and other young employees contribute to the business. Summer gets busy in the stores, and it comes at just the right time for young enthusiastic helpers to be let out
of school!


Real People Still Needed

Even though technology has made easier nearly all aspects of life (both in and out of the stores), Pruden noted that there are some things that cannot be replaced with a computer. “Many people think that color matching computers are sufficient and that machines are better than the human eye,” she said, “but our guys are really excellent color matchers. Customers often like to check with machines to make sure their colors are accurate. Really, the machines are great to get you started but our color matchers are still the best.”

The color choices that customers are making in Columbus, in Ohio, and throughout the Midwest vary from those in other parts of the country, Harper said. He does not notice a “Columbus specific” trend but recognizes that the fads in these stores align with the rest of the Midwest. “I find that they’re more vibrant on the east coast,” he noted. “We’re more laid back out in the Midwest, more elegant with softer and subtle colors.”

With a population of slightly under 900,000, many Columbus residents are likely thinking of one of these five stores when they’re looking for a can of paint. These well-placed stores in this midwestern metro area have been able to fulfill the wants and needs of their customers for the past 54 years. “People come to us because they know our reputation,” Pruden said. “We are centrally located, and they are loyal customers.”