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Less Than Halfway There!

Updated: May 12, 2023

On June 19, 1907 when my great-grandfather Beny Gershkowitz announced his intention to become a citizen of THE United States, immigration laws required he renounce his allegiance to the Emperor of Russia, Czar Nicholas II.

A decision I suspect Beny did not take much time to ponder!

Born in Kupyn, a village in the Khmelnytskyi oblast of Ukraine, Beny worked as a tobacco farmer when the Last Czar's Russian Cossacks carried out a pogrom on the Jews of Kupyn. Lucky enough to survive the Russian attacks, Beny moved the family to Brichany; the Moldovian village where Jews had been living since 1760 and where Yiddish was spoken by more than 95% of the population in the village of 6,000. After a brief "respite" working in the tobacco fields of Brichany, Beny saw the writing on the wall for European Jews. Showing his sechel, Beny brought the family to the United States, ultimately homesteading a plot of land in South Dakota. By the time Russian soldiers committed their genocide of the Jews of Brichany, Beny Gershkowitz was Benjamin Gersh. Though an email from a Ukrainian paint dealer I continue my correspondence with describes what Beny left behind.

Indy’s More Than 500!

Last week the American Coatings Association held their first in-person trade show since the outbreak of the pandemic. The three-day gathering in Indianapolis was the largest gathering of paint manufacturing executives and their supporting casts of chemist and vendors in nearly three-years. The show’s theme, “Strong and Resilient: Innovations in Coatings Technology,” a homage to the technical leaps the industry continues to benefit from. And to the challenges faced by the paint industry over the previous 24-months! Those I spoke with who attended the show, did so hoping to learn how much longer those challenges could be expected to last. Their questions going mostly unanswered!

Despite the opportunity to question the largest collection of resin, pigment and other vendors of the paint manufacturer’s world, none of the show attendees I spoke with were willing to forecast how long the $26 billion-per-year American coatings industry would be struggling with the effects of shortages, a supply chain crisis and unprecedented inflation in the price of paint. Most of the attendees I spoke to expecting that the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better.

Before the Russian invasion, Russian and Ukraine represented an outsized share of the world’s Titanium Dioxide production. The destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure combined with sanctions intended to cripple Russia’s war-making capabilities, likely bringing volatility to the TiO2 market for the foreseeable future. Alone, instability in the supply of paint’s irreplaceable raw material is enough to keep #DanCalkinsAwake at night. But combined with ongoing resin shortages and supply chain woe’s, instability in the TiO2 markets likely means that barring recession, this era in paint history marked by shortages and price inflation will be with us for a while. One attendee I spoke with sharing that, “from Q1 2020 to Q4 2023 I expect the price of paint to rise by as much as 50%.” Meaning that significant inflation in the price of paint is to be expected in the coming months.

As if to make the point, in the days following the ACA show Rust-Oleum announced a price increase on their architectural coatings with a weighted average of more than 28%. With prices of the brand’s popular oil and shellac-based primers increasing more than 36%. For their industrial line the Rust-Oleum price increase will average 26%, though some products will see increases as high as 60%! As always, Grasshopper getting right to the point.

On the Road Again? An unexpected road trip and the advent of Bluetooth allowed several of you to introduce yourselves to Buck Wheat last week. THE Buck, my 24-year-old daughter and muse joining me on my four-day odyssey. It was the least she could do!

And while 2,300 miles in a recently repaired WRX intended only for the short commute from Stamford to Montvale may seem hard on an old paint geek’s back, THE girl’s company was enough to keep the whining in check. Of-course, there is no focusing on anything else when it’s time to focus on THE Buck, so I never did find time to post my podcast with Ace dealer Gina Schaefer I promised you In my blog last week. Look for the episode on Thursday.


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