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Published: Sunday, 5/1/2005

Color of downturn: Slow economy cuts area painters' work

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

WITH HIS painting company running smoothly in the late 1990s, Tim Stump decided to follow his dream of becoming a professional walleye fisherman.

He spent four years working toward that goal and became a pro in 2003.

But when the local economy went sour, Mr. Stump's Luckey, Ohio, painting company lost customers, forcing him to sell his boat and return full-time to run TJ Stump's Painting Co.

"Business has gone downhill drastically in the past two to three years," said Mr. Stump. "Residential [jobs] that normally were 75 percent of our company's revenues have been more than cut in half."

Typically, he said, he would have jobs booked until June this time of year, but his phone has yet to ring this year asking for a bid.

The reason, he said, is that many home-

owners are doing their own painting, not hiring contractors.

Because of an increase in do-it-yourselfers, combined with many homeowners and corporate clients delaying jobs because of the economy, the area painting industry has struggled, said Greg Sattler, of Thomas E. Sattler Painting & Wallpapering Co. in Perrysburg.

"We've seen hard times before but some of the hardest have been the last couple of years," said Mr. Sattler, president of the Toledo chapter of the Painting & Decorating Contractors of America.

Business has just started to pick up, he said, noting that friends elsewhere in the state are doing better.

Richard Bright, spokesman for the national painting trade group, said business for the industry nationally has recovered somewhat since the tough times after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. More than 60 percent of residential jobs, he said, are done by professional painters.

"Time is precious to Baby Boomers and they'd rather pay someone to get the work done," he said.

Prices vary widely, depending on the materials used and difficulty of the job. For example, exterior painting of a 3,000-square-foot house might cost $5,000. Interior rooms can cost $150 to $2,000, depending on the size, type of paint, and special techniques like faux finishing.

Do-it-yourselfers, on the other hand, report painting the exterior of a two-story house for as little as $400 and painting rooms with just two gallons of paint that cost $20 to $25 each.

Jeff Shriner, who has worked in the paint department at the Home Depot in West Toledo for nearly 10 years, said business has steadily increased. About a third of his department's customers are contractors and the rest are homeowners doing their own

work, he said.

Matt Barkett, a spokesman for ICI Paints, said, "I think any time you have questionable economic times, you'll see a little bit more do-it-yourself activity."

The company, the U.S. unit in Cleveland of a British firm, makes the Glidden, Ralph Lauren, and This Old Home paint brands.

"But a vast majority of our business is still through the professional painters " he said, declining to give details.

The company's sales have climbed each year, he added.

The recent difficult times have hit more than just painters of houses.

Charles Mann IV, president of Charles F. Mann Painting Co., which has been doing business locally for more than 80 years, said the company, which is a contractor for commercial projects, has been forced to look for work outside northwest Ohio, including cities as far away as Louisville and Indianapolis.

The problem, he said, is that companies either have delayed projects or are having their own maintenance staff do them.

Key to surviving is to constantly get the word out about the business, said Kevin McVicker, who, along with his father, Bill, owns MC Painting Services in Toledo.

"I'll paint anything that someone wants painted," Kevin McVicker said. He said he worries that business could be hurt if more people do their own painting.

Still, he added, "There are always going to be folks who A) can afford to not have to do their own painting and B) don't know how to do it."

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at

mmclaughlin@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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