©2019 by Mark Lipton

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  • Mark Lipton

Paint Stores and Impeachment!




Dead presidents and paint: What a day!


I woke up this morning just west of Knoxville, Tennessee. Thankfully, that was where I went to sleep too! Last night, I was hoping to get another 100 miles or so to Johnson City. The Beemer would have been up to it, but the driver had had enough!


Last night while laying around the room, I selected my target for today: the independent paint dealer I wanted to visit. I’m doing this whole thing one day at a time.

Bearden Decorating Center and The Color Market are in Knoxville, Tennessee are two stores, two names, two very different businesses: with only one owner!


But I didn’t know any of that until I made my first stop of the day at Bearden Decorating Center.


Herbie, the store manager Bearden for over eight years showed off his southern hospitality. After I introduced myself and shared what I was up to, he let me wander around and take pictures while he shared the deets on the store.


The Bearden store was heavy in retail and designer business and light on trade sales. Herbie estimated their mix at 85/15 in favor of retail and designer sales. With all the efforts dealers are encouraged to make in the residential repaint market, Herbie is a bit of a unicorn! He didn’t say, but I’d estimate that that sales mix leads to some pretty high gross margins.

Also contributing to higher margins, I suspect was the amount of premium paint he had on his shelves.


I loved this store because it reminded me of my smaller store: a smaller location with lower rent, lower labor costs, heavy percentage of retail sales and the higher margins they brought me equaled a low break-even. I like that model. Herbie basically worked in there alone, with just a part-timer to help fill some of the hours.


In addition to the premium paints, they had a nice window covering display for a store this size. But it’s the Aura display you see when you walk in the front door! You can’t see the fives when you walk in but they’re there: Aura, Regal, Arborcoat…..all the good stuff!

Between paint customers, Herbie mentioned their other store. “Other store?” I asked? I had been to their website the night before and didn’t remember anything about a second location.

Turns out that Bearden Decorating Center was purchased a number of years ago and had a nice following, so they never changed the name. Their other location was called The Color Market.


As Herbie described the other store: large professional trade, big inventory and staff, outside sales rep: I began thinking of the parallels to my former stores: one big and one little.

I called an audible and went to see the other store.


I'm glad I did. I love a good looking paint store!


And the Color Market in Knoxville, Tennessee is an outstanding looking paint (and decorating) store.


Right from the bottom!


The floor is a great representation for any retailer selling high end epoxy or metallic floor finishes. I hope that the pictures do it justice, it looked amazing.


Walking in the front door, the first thing you notice is the smell of popcorn, so I started there. This location is really two stores in one. On the left was a beautiful design center where they sell wallpaper and LOTS of window treatments. NO paint or sundry displays in here at all, it’s basically a window treatment studio; and a damn nice one! If it was 400 miles closer to home, I would have spent the night there!


By my New Yorker standards, their paint department was huge! In addition to the sales floor (which was light on the paint, heavy on the color and sundry display) there was a large back room which held most of their wide and deep inventory: from Super Hide to Aura in gallons and fives. And plenty of it! They are definitely selling paint in volume out of this store. He had a smattering of PPG but overwhelmingly this was a Benjamin Moore store.


I loved the tinting station with the four Fluid 5G’s next to each other. I could have used that capacity but never had the space. It was an impressive looking store.

I grabbed another bag of popcorn and out I went, hoping to make it to DC before it got too late.


Again, I failed! This time because of a dead president!


Along my drive, not twenty minutes out of my way was the home and burial site of the 17th United States president; Andrew Johnson!


Here’s what I know about Andrew Johnson without Googling: He was Abraham Lincoln’s Vice President, becoming president on Lincoln’s death. He was also the first president impeached and so that means on THIS trip, I visited our first two impeached presidents: Johnson and Clinton. Maybe as I pass through New York tomorrow I’ll stop at Trump Tower and get the trifecta!


My time behind the windshield is coming to an end. Tomorrow will be my last long drive and paint store for a while. Let’s hope it’s a good one!


Thank you so very much for following me along on my travels this week. It's been a great time for me and from the number of you reading along, you are as well. Thank you! I am really grateful for the attention!


Mark