The former home of Tremont Paint's Broadway location is practically no more to me than a post office box where I collect correspondence from the stubborn few who refuse to accept the fact that I have moved to Stamford, Connecticut!
Yet visiting the building at 5610 Broadway, which maintains as strong an association with my youth as the house I grew up in, leaves me wistful.
The trip takes me south, down Connecticut's Merritt Parkway, to 287 West through my hometown White Plains. Followed by a shortcut down the Sprain and a series of switchbacks on local roads, which can included Jackson or Central Avenues depending on traffic.
In the years before Waze there was Billy.
I first experienced the White Plains-Bronx portion of this trip riding shotgun in my father's van circa 1970. The 25-minute ride to his, his father’s and his grandfather’s paint store long enough to ensure that by the time we got there I would smell of his smoking addiction.
And paint thinner.
To New York City's Major Deegan Expressway. THE Deegan, and its exit at West 231st Street.
The exit where conversation of Yankees, golf, family and love would end and my father would take the last few moments of our commute to share what was expected of me when we walked in the door. The tasks which I would need to accomplish to get the truck loaded and on its way to the first deliveries it would make that day. And how much time I had to accomplish them.
Which never seemed like enough.
It would not be until I was a father myself that I understood that that was part of his plan.
After several days and one emotional car ride spent thinking about my father, I found myself in front of a plate of chicharonnes.
THE deep fried chunks of bacon favored by paint dealers and the Bronx's heavily Dominican population are worth their own blog. Though my fianceeic Gaetana says I’ve had my last bite of the coronary spackle.
It’s always good to wake up the day after chicharonnes day!
Earlier, when I pulled the Jeep into the parking garage behind the store I had to go Bronx on a dude and explain to him who I was. And why I had no intention of paying to park there.
Dropping the keys in the cup holder, we agreed we’d deal with the issue on I returned.
That should give him time to find out that I own the land where I had just parked my Jeep. And that for 30-years I’ve made that land, the store's backyard which is large enough to park 20 trucks, available to the garage's owner. Greatly expanding their capacity, and wealth.
I was happy that my backyard, land otherwise worthless to me due to the garage having the only vehicle access, could be of value. Over decades the arrangement must have made the family heck-dough.
But I get a space forever, was part of the deal.
It’s a Sign of Something
Up the driveway and turning right, onto the stretch of sidewalk I walked with my father from childhood through retirement, I spied the building’s new badge.
The sign reminding the Bronx that Tremont Paint was, was no more.
It’s replacement, the equivalent of the final shovelful of dirt on the grave of my family’s 112-year paint journey.
As I noticed the new lettering on the bold red sign familiar to Benjamin Moore dealers I thought, “Shouldn’t the “j” be capitalized?”
I know, I was expecting something a bit more reflective myself!
Collecting my mail and sharing paint words with old and new friends, I headed back to the garage to complete my confrontation with the attendant who needed to be reminded who he was dealing with.
By either confirming my story or not giving a shit, he agreed to my last drop of influence in the neighborhood I once owned, and handed me my keys.
An action which just two-years ago would have earned him nice tip from an appreciative paint dealer Who always had a little coin in his pocket.
But I hope he liked my smile! Because e-commerce executives rarely carry cash.
The Other Side to the Coin
While most independents paint dealers continue to prosper, times are not so good for the other categories of independent retailers in the Bronx, and country as a whole.
Of the seven storefronts directly across the street from the newest janovic location, four stand empty! The devastating effect of lockdowns on locally owned businesses during the pandemic’s early months.
New York will recover, as it always has. But I fear the economic conditions which allowed independent retailers to be a cylinder in the engine which drove the American economy for the last 150-years may be gone. With just I-Hop, GNC and KFC remaining among the empty stores of Broadway, other than some categories which continue to excel such as paint, hardware, food and pharmacies, I worry for the future of locally owned independent retailers in the Big Apple and country as a whole.
My guest this week on the Mark, My Words! podcast is Executive Vice-President and COO of the North American Hardware and Paint Association, Dan Tratensek.
Each year, Dan’s group publishes their Cost of Doing Business Study. The study, which represents the aggregated results from dealers who have anonymously shared their financial results, remains the best way by far for dealers to measure their financial outcomes against the most complete set of data on the topic.
The other Dan and I go through the results of the 2020 study and hone in on some of it’s more salient data-points: inventory turns, gross and net profit margins, sales per full-time-equivalent employee and sales per square foot just to name a few.
There are only three ways to access to the results of the Cost of Doing Business Study. First, you can participate in the survey. By anonymously providing your operating results, you get a free copy of the study when it gets published.
Which you missed your chance to do this year so keep reading.
The second way to get your copy of the 2020 Cost of Doing Business study is to pay for it. Dealers who did not participate in the study can still access the report findings for $500 on the NHPA web site.
The third way to get your copy of the study is to click here.
Because this Dan thinks I'm cool!
If it’s the sweet sound of my voice you prefer you can listen to me and Dan in all the usual places; Soundcloud, Apple and of course on my own site. If it’s my shayna punim you prefer, you can watch the episode here on my Youtube channel or here on my own site.