You Call This Working?

Updated: Aug 3, 2019

I remember as a kid, I would often go to work with my father at his paint store. In-fact in my family, it wasn’t even work to go to the paint store, it was a treat!

We had other family members in the business with my father at that time. My father’s brother-in-law, my Uncle Chuck was there in my younger days and during my middle and high school years my mother would be there too! Tremont Paint was a family affair.

My father and Uncle used put my cousin Todd and me onto hand-trucks and race us around the store as a way of entertaining us. I don’t remember ever seeing any money change hands, but if I know my father and uncle…. It DID!

Growing up in the Bronx about three-quarters of a mile from my father’s paint store, I was there all the time. Anytime my mother needed to ditch me for an afternoon, she would bring me down to the store and I would hang out there with my family. It was like Thanksgiving…. only without the feast!

Hand-truck races were not the only “Olympic-Style” events that my family and I used to do to pass the time. Change rolling (yes kids, you used to have to roll your own change in the 1970’s…. banks didn’t have fancy coin-rolling machines back then), speed tinting (notice there was no contest for tinting accuracy) and of course shelf-stocking and floor sweeping. My father and Uncle were professional about getting the kids to do their work and calling it a game!

But despite all those great memories, I rarely took my daughter Miranda to work with me. Oh sure, a few times a year it would happen as needed but for the most part, she doesn’t have many memories of my stores. By the time I was 13 I could take care of a customer in the store, start to finish! By the time Miranda was 13, all she could do was go into my wallet and take whatever I had earned from selling paint that day!

But a family’s children, who work in the store while younger get a much needed connection to the paint business. Often, they can move on to be store employees and then business owners: a transitional option as the family ages.

That is the problem that independent paint and hardware stores owners are facing now as we age: Nationwide, there’s a lack of transitional options at retirement.

My family’s situation illuminates part of the problem. Just a generation before us, my grandfather raised my father knowing that one day he would take over the paint business. Dad went to college for a semester and at the first sign of homesickness, was in the paint store full-time. My father had a career AND…. my grandfather had a transition plan, all at the same time!

With this generation, almost all of our children are going to college. Once they leave, they find the great big world out there and few return to the family paint business. They find other pursuits more exciting; which after 31 years in the paint business I can say…. They maybe right about that!

So now what?