Even their competition sends them customers. That's a high compliment to pay any business.
Located in the northwest quadrant of Dallas near the busy intersection of Interstate 35 and LBJ Freeway, Walnut Hill Paint Company is a spacious store brimming with three color centers on its perimeter walls. An open floor plan, its 2,000 square-foot showroom is inundated with the color of 15,000 color samples, from seven national and local lines of paint. Marbling, glazing and other types of faux finishes, for which the store is known, adorn columns, doors and display easels and walls, and serve as a backdrop for customer tables situated in the center of the showroom floor.
When a customer has a particularly vexing question--even in competitor's stores as far away as Fort Worth, 35 miles away--they seek out this dealer. "It's known in the marketplace-call Walnut Hill," says Jerry Hibberd, the store manager, a 45-year veteran of the paint industry and a PDRA certified industrial and architectural coatings consultant, who's been with the store since July 1998.
It was at this time that Lauren Charlton and her husband, Don, bought the business from Lauren's father, John Wood. Wood had owned the store since 1967 when he bought an existing small paint store in the Walnut Hill Shopping Village. Over the years he had owned as many as five stores at once, but later concentrated his efforts into the one location, which is 10,000 square feet. In addition to the 2,000 square-foot showrooms, it contains a separate 1,000 square-foot sales floor. Wood continues to be involved through his role as advisor.
Don Charlton, who dedicates himself to business management and controlling costs, has developed a tailored software system that controls point of sales, inventory and more. Lauren, who over the years helped with accounting functions when her father owned the business, enjoys working the sales floor, though she also handles the majority of the firm's present accounting functions. The business' s status as a second generation, certified minority-owned business (in addition to being a woman, Lauren is part Native American), allows the retailer to competitively bid on an expanded number of city, state and federal contracts. Of course, to meet these criteria, the company must have a certain percentage of minority employee participation (this percentage varies based on the type of government contract).
Management at Walnut Hill applies a multi-faceted business strategy that has helped it successfully maintain sales growth year after year, even in these times of economic downturn.
The retailer collaborates with some of the top faux finishers in the country, a compendium of who's who of faux that have done work in the homes of celebrities and millionaires such as Ross Perot and Tom Hicks. Using another tactic for success, the dealer continually updates to remain current with the latest faux techniques and products.
The dealer maintains a varied business on the commercial side, from small pot-and-brush guys to large commercial paint contractors. Walnut Hill combines forces with local industrial metal fabricators that refurbish heavy machinery such as forklifts in precisely matching corporate colors such as Kubota orange or Caterpillar yellow. They also collaborate with cabinet and furniture makers, as well as hotel and motel and large hospitals in the area, including Parkland Hospital where John F. Kennedy was taken after the mortal shooting.
Hibberd notes, "Because we are so diversified we don't know if we've felt [the recession] as much."
It may sound like a cliché, but the owners and manager attribute the store's success to the simplest of tenets: professional, personable service. "Customers are treated like friends rather than like customers," says Hibberd. "We talk to everyone on a first name basis and vice versa. You don't get that in a company store.
"We know that's our bread and butter," Hibberd continues. "You won't get that from any advertising scheme--only from word of mouth and good results. People turn to us when they find futility in other stores. Even the competition sends us customers."
Some of Our Projects
We have extensive experience in specification writing for high profile projects. Our projects include work with:
Textures, for example are a hot item in Faux today. There is also a trend toward technical work, Hibberd says. Most are multiple layered-on colors, often simulating stone, fantasy textures with drywall mud and authentic Venetian plasters, such as Metallic Plaster, Marmorinos and Casiopia Glass flake walls.
The staff offers full design services by experienced employees such as color guru
Grady Doggett, who they've dubbed "the paint detective." He can decipher from a finished surface the colors that will be used to replicate it. His affinity for
color comes in handy in coordinating numerous colors used by hotel and motel management in their facilities-which can run upwards of 30 or 40 finishes overall.
Walnut Hill's other expert colorists, such as Antonio Contreras and Matt Britt, provide faster than usual color matches for customers who want to coordinate paint with wood, fabric, counter top, tile, etc. In fact a request made in the morning is frequently complete by afternoon. Commercial customers are provided quick and friendly delivery by warehouse personnel. Arthur Simpson, office manager, provides a wealth of knowledge with 36 years experience in the paint industry (32 years at Walnut Hill).
Color is this dealer's forte. Back in 1990, it was the first in the area to implement digital color matching services. Today five color computers loaded with color management software and digital spectrometers work alone or in combination to provide starting formulations for custom colors. Every six weeks or so the store offers consumer seminars, which are often focused on faux finishing. Chris Jewett, a locally renowned Faux contractor also teaches most all of our in store classes.
Typical clinics, which run two hours, accommodate about 20 to 30 attendees and cost about $40, which covers the basic costs of instructor and materials. Three or four topics are covered each seminar, ranging from painting tips and color theory to preparation and cleanup. Several finishing techniques are also included which may include glazing, metallics or textures such as Marmorino. As a professional resource, the store often hosts seminars for groups of designers such as ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) members. Finally, the retailer has one of the largest libraries in the area of video
CDs on instructional materials for rent or sale.
Hibberd says the store constantly explores new and innovative products, furnishing products to customers to provide feedback, as well as testing them in-house. "The real test is on the aerosol can filling job," he observes. "We get more business because we have a reputation for selling top quality products." In addition, an aerosol can filling business for oil-based and, more recently, spray paint cans are a service professional painting contractors appreciate.