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One Less Giant

Driving home from a day behind the counter of my father’s paint store just weeks into THE job, I glimpsed a warehouse with its door ajar. The aperture, wide enough to expose the building’s contents.

Among them, more deuces of Regal Wall Satin than I knew to be in stock at my own store, just blocks in my rearview mirror.

The next morning my father explained that I had discovered Rick’s Painting, one of New York City’s largest painting contractors.

“But I don’t want to sell them” Billy added. “The owner is difficult to deal with!”

Not wanting my father to think that I would start listening to him just because I was now in his employ, I went back to Rick’s the next day and pounded on the warehouse door.

Not one month into my career as a paint retailer in the Bronx, would be the first of thousands of occasions I have to do so.

Rick’s Painting

One of New York’s premier union painting contractors, Rick’s Painting was a multi-generational business; the eponymous father managing the company from their upstairs offices while THE son managed logistics from the warehouse below.

Walking in for the first time I was confident in my ability to make a sale; if not on that day, then another! No other dealer I reasoned, would be able to compete with the level of service I could provide a customer of that size, considering the proximity.

Though a short number of sales calls later, my plans were foiled. Stopping one day to bang on the warehouse door, I was told that there was a “ban” on any dealings between Rick’s and Tremont.

“My father says your dad is a pain to deal with.”

Which, I already knew!

Despite the rebuff, I continued to appear at Rick’s warehouse door. That frequency, allowing a friendship to develop between the two young paint men with at least one thing in common.

Their fathers were difficult to deal with!

But when my father retired just a few years later THE ban was lifted and Rick’s Painting became the largest customer of my career.

When Joe’s father retired the conversation moved upstairs. Or to Jake’s Steakhouse, where comfortable booths allowed for loitering and talks of families, cars, and paint.

The frequency of those meetings makes it likely that I have dined out more in my life with Joseph Ricci, than any other in my personal history.

Never Conservative Enough!

In October of 2008, the New York construction trades were felled by a global economic crisis, the paint markets were not spared the blade: Ongoing construction in the city was halted in response to the crisis and sales immediately decreased by 50%.

With no reason to forecast that they would be recovering anytime soon!

Conservative in my financial strategies I was prepared for the crisis with cash reserves and fully-paid inventory enough to mitigate the accounts receivable hits I began taking.

Though on one particularly bad afternoon, I found out that those funds were inaccessible to me due to THE circumstances of my divorce.

It seemed unlikely that Tremont Paint would survive.

At Jake’s, I shared my predicament with Joe, by then a dear friend. But also, a customer who had built a supply chain infrastructure for his painting operations around my fleet. He was due some warning if that fleet was going to stop running.

Joe’s response, is still wetting the keyboard, 15 years later.

“I never checked your prices before and I’m not going to start now,” he said, "So raise your prices to me,' insisting that the added profits will get me back on my feet.

“Go back to your regular prices when you can” he added. The words trust and love unused in his sentences, but the evidence of their presence is hard to refute.

Before the meal concluded, Joe shared the final two conditions of his largess, the first of which was that I leave the higher pricing in place long enough to ensure I resolve THE problem.

I Could Guess?

I don’t know myself the total amount of Joe’s grant-in-aid. I considered keeping track at one time but there didn’t seem a point to the exercise since Joe’s final condition was that we never discuss the arrangement again.

His recent passing leaving me and you– as the (almost) only ones who know.

*Message edited to allow for privacy

Joseph Ricci, 1959-2023


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