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Keep the Trucks Moving!

In October 1973, the oil-producing nations that made up OPEC, proclaimed an embargo on all oil being exported to countries they felt supported Israel during the Yom Kippur war of that same year.

A gas crisis gripped the nation.

Gas was rationed. You could only buy gas on odd or even days based on your license plate number AND your purchases were limited to $5 at a time. Gas was less than $.40 per gallon at the time but with the average car getting a bit over 10 MPG, 12 gallons didn’t last long.

At that time, a gallon of Regal flat would have been around $6 to the painter.

There was violence on some of the gas lines where the wait to fill-up was often hours! My mother started pulling me out of school on mornings she needed to wait for a fill-up: She claimed at the time that I was there to keep her safe.

I was 10 and that memory makes me wonder what other lies my mother told me?

In the 1970’s, my family’s paint business in the Bronx-Tremont Paint Supply-was heavily dependent on making deliveries. At that time, we had little in the way of retail or even pot-and-brush walk-in painter trade. Most of our volume came from large painting contractors who expected our trucks to deliver to their job sites: daily!

And now you see the problem.

My father bought a siphon and I used it to drain the gas from my mother’s car and put it into a van which my father would bring home from the store. Neatness didn’t count for much to a 10-year-old and siphoning gas is not a clean game! Thankfully at 10, I was not a cigar smoker yet! But I remember getting a mouthful of gas a few times while getting the siphon going.

But it wasn’t enough!

Vans were sitting idle and paint was laying still. It could have been a very bad time to own a paint store in New York.

But my father had a secret weapon.

THE Louie Repetti.

The Repetti’s were the neighbors you always wanted to have. Whether celebrating a joy or managing a crisis, the Repetti’s were always the first one to the door with whatever was called for: a bowl of pasta and fresh meatballs or a box of tissues and a warm shoulder.

They say it takes a village to raise a family. But in White Plains; it only took the Repetti’s.

Their oldest daughter Carol was the only babysitter I ever knew that was not related to me. We all loved Carol. And her 1969 green Camero started my lifelong affection for Detroit Muscle!

The patriarch of the family was Louie. In the days when local businesses were exactly that, Louie owned a gas station and repair shop in the area around White Plains.

In 1973, for a paint retailer with vans to run, a sweet and giving man with a seemingly unlimited supply of gas was THE guy to know. My father would bring home a truck with a nearly empty tank and Louie would take it to work the next day and bring it back to my father with a full tank of gas! Illegal at the time due to rationing laws, but I’m pretty sure that the statute of limitations has expired on that one.

That’s a memory I had not brought to life in decades. Until last week, I had no real reason to conjure the thoughts.

I mentioned in my blog last week that while in New York for the holidays, my mother turned 80 and we had a party for her at my sister’s house. The food’s better there than at my place and I’m all for someone else doing all the work so it was the right choice.

I expected my sister to cry a lot and she didn’t disappoint! I can name ten Brady Bunch episodes that will make Marci cry and a few TV commercials! It’s par for the course.

But not my mother.

It turns out though that Einstein was right: time CAN be reversed. With an assist from Facebook, my sister found Carol Repetti and delivered her to my mother for her birthday.

There were tears! And it was 1973 again.

From us all! I was so excited to see Carol and her husband Louie again. I asked about that Camero (sold) and for some reason….we started talking about the 1973 oil crisis. She recalled her dad used to do that for others at that time. I’m was not surprised to learn that.

The price of oil still holds dominion over the life of a paint dealer. While oil-based paints are primarily gone from your shelves the vast majority of the resins that make up paints even today, are petroleum-based. Cans are plastic and a large component of what dealers pay for paint is shipping: and that take gas!

But unlike 1973, oil prices are stable now and that’s good news for paint dealers. Stability in the markets will mean stability in your stores. So stable in-fact that at a recent national sales conference, I heard Benjamin Moore CEO Dan Calkins report to the room that barring a crisis, he does not expect any pricing actions in 2020.

GOOD! Less stress for us all!

And it looks like Louie Repetti can finally get some rest!


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