Estate Plan: Brown Bear Painting’s ‘Pandemic Project’

Though in business for just eight years, Brown Bear Painting has quickly established itself in its hometown of Morris, a city of about 15,000 located about 70 miles southwest of Chicago in Grundy County.

“We when started out in 2012, we set out to become one of the premier painting contractors in the area,” says owner Kevin Brown. “We strived to be the best option when it comes to hiring a local painting contractor. To help achieve our goal, we set very high standards for quality and customer service.”

That attention to detail was recognized by the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce, which recently named Brown Bear Painting as Entrepreneur Business of the Year. It also shows in a project they started in March and completed during the challenging times contractors are facing in 2020.

PPC editor Mike Starling sat down with Kevin to learn more about the beautiful job they did at the Bedeker Estate.

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You called this your “pandemic project.” Besides wearing masks and distancing, what other measures did you take to make your customer feel confident about having you do the job at this time?

As part of our “Staying Safe in the Workplace” procedures, we took several precautions to limit exposure to COVID-19. We issued our team members rubber gloves, masks, hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes. If anyone wasn’t feeling well, or was running a fever, they were told to stay home (luckily everyone stayed healthy). Our daily routine included sanitizing tools before and after use, as well as limiting the sharing of hand tools and equipment. We also wiped down door handles and faucets at the end of each day.

Was the home occupied during the painting process?

For the most part, only contractors were on-site during this project. That created logistical challenges when trying to coordinate the schedules of everyone involved, but I feel we did a great job at that.

You used Emerald® Interior Acrylic Latex on the interior walls. Is this a product you often use and recommend to your customers?

In a perfect world, we would use Emerald on every project, but some customers are more budget conscious than others and we need to use a product that is a little more economical. We typically bid a job using ProMar® 200 or SuperPaint®, but always give our customers the option to upgrade to Duration Home® or Emerald.

What are the main selling points for you?

Emerald is an attractive coating to homeowners with pets and kids as it’s very durable and washable – even with a slightly lower sheen. The finish we are most commonly using is the matte finish. It will hide minor imperfections that come with residential repaints, while at the same time allowing the homeowner to clean the walls and touch them up with ease in the future.

You used Emerald® Urethane Trim Enamel on the trim. Why this product?

Sherwin-Williams® Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel could not have been introduced at a better time. Due to current trends, we have several customers requesting to have kitchen cabinets and previously stained woodwork painted. This product provides a durable finish that lays down very well. Being a water-based product, it helps with cure time and cleanup as well. We are currently using this product in a semi-gloss finish.

What kind of surface prep was needed on this job?

Before the painting began, we had much prep work to do which included re-caulking the crown molding and filling holes in newly installed base trim and shoe. For those areas we use Sherwin-Williams 950A Siliconized Acrylic Caulk and Crawford’s Natural Blend Painter’s Putty. There were water stains which we covered up with Sherwin-Williams Extreme Block Stain Blocking Alkyd Primer, and we used Eminence High Performance Ceiling Paint for the finish coat.

What role did you play in the color selection process?

As part of our service, we sit down with the homeowner to get a feel for what colors they like, dislike, etc. From there, we can offer suggestions on primary colors and complementary colors as well.

How did Sherwin-Williams help you in the successful completion of this project?

They’re always great about taking care of us. For example, they’ll set up a different job account on a large project so it’s easier for us to track paint and supplies. That helps tremendously. On a day we were two gallons short, our rep went to another store to get what we needed and delivered it to us so we could finish.

Were there any other challenges you faced before you wrapped up this job at the end of May 2020?

On the final day when we were going to work on punch list items, cleanup, etc., both roads to get to the house were flooded from a storm the night before. Needless to say, we went back a couple days later, finished the job and the customer was very happy with the way everything turned out. Just “icing on the cake” with a project that was anything but normal.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2020 issue of PPC magazine. Story by Mike Starling, PPC Editor. Photography courtesy Brown Bear Painting. Read about other successful painting projects in the PPC magazine archive.