If a small business is going to succeed long term, it has to adapt to changes in the market. A strong connection with the community also helps. Fortunately, 21st Century Paints in Toledo, Ohio, has both adaptability and a community bond.
A PPG Paints dealer, 21st Century Paints opened in 1993. In its 25th year, the local business will move from a 2800-square-foot store to a 9500-square-foot space. The move shows unmistakable growth, but more specifically, the new store shows 21st Century Paints’ success with adaptability.
“We’re basically any type of paint store you want,” says manager Matt Ash. 21st Century Paints serves homeowners, DIY’ers, contractors and businesses. Over its 25-year history, the business has maintained a diverse customer base, but the focus has shifted in response to changes in the local market.
“We’re focusing on a different clientele than my dad,” says Steve Haugh, owner of 21st Century Paints. Haugh’s father opened the business after years of working in the paint industry. He passed those years of knowledge – and the paint business itself – onto Haugh.
“I grew up in the paint industry,” Haugh says. “I learned a lot from my dad.”
He also had to learn some of it himself. “Sometimes, my vision was different than his,” Haugh says. When Haugh’s father opened the business, the focus was on retail sales. Over time, the focus has shifted to commercial and industrial applications.
“Back in ’93, this area wasn’t saturated with big-box stores,” Haugh explains. “Then a few years later, the first Lowe’s opened up in town, and it was right across the street from us.”
As competition from big-box and chain stores cut into its retail business, 21st Century Paints saw an opportunity to adopt a new focus.
“Now we’re mainly a commercial, industrial paint store,” Haugh says. “We do some retail, but as we know, there’s a lot of competition out there. We try to find the niche markets.”
Although the focus has changed over the years, 21st Century Paints’ enthusiasm for the community and the people who live there hasn’t wavered. In its 25th year, 21st Century Paints will grow into a new building in the same community it has always served.
“We seem to stay together,” Haugh says. His team consists of multiple employees who have remained with the company for a decade or longer. Together, they work hard to serve customers and the local community.
“This is where I grew up,” Haugh says.
Haugh and his team support local Boy Scout organizations and local revitalization projects. Recently, 21st Century Paints donated to a mural project that honored a young girl killed by gunfire.
Changes to the retail market are inevitable, but small businesses can stay strong by taking new approaches and keeping in touch with their communities.
This story is part of our ongoing ‘Local Memories, Lasting Impact’ series that highlights small, locally owned businesses and the differences they make in their communities.
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