Dages Paint has a rich history in a historic community. In 85 years, the Dages family has overcome economic depression, traditional gender roles and the everyday challenges of running a business. Now, they’re working to overcome another byproduct of history – lead paint poisoning.
Anne Dages Nutt is the current owner and president of Dages Paint, a PPG Pittsburgh Paints dealer. She’s the third generation of the Dages family to run the Louisville business – and also the first female to do so. “My grandfather started the business out of the trunk of his car in 1930, at the height of the Great Depression,” she says. From there, the family moved the business into an old house and finally into a storefront.
Anne joined the business in 1994, when the economy was doing well, but the role of women in the paint industry was not. “It’s very much a male industry, so at first there was hesitation,” she says. “But I was determined not to be ‘daddy’s little girl,’ so I rolled up my sleeves, loaded trucks and stocked shelves.” Despite the initial skepticism of her employees and customers, Anne worked her way up and has been able to grow the business ever since.
One way she has grown the business is by giving back. Dages Paint is located in a historic neighborhood of Louisville, surrounded by old buildings, antique homes and, unfortunately, lead paint. About four years ago, Anne teamed up with two of her customers, who had started a company called LockUpLead. Their goal was to develop a product that would neutralize the toxins in lead-based paint so that families could live, safely, in their antique homes without having to do costly renovations. “It was so costly to deal with lead paint that people weren’t doing anything about it,” Anne explains. “We wanted to develop a product that was affordable and accessible to the average homeowner and average contractor.”
Since teaming up, LockUpLead and Dages Paint have developed three such products, which are now sold in 50 independently owned stores nationwide, including three in the Louisville area. The products have become so useful that even the local government has become a customer. The health department distributes the product to people who have been diagnosed with an elevated level of lead in their blood. Meanwhile, the city treats abandoned buildings with the product to prevent further poisoning.
Lead paint poses a serious threat to health and development, especially for children. Anne sees her work with LockUpLead as a suitable way for her industry to give back. “Lead poisoning is such an invisible hazard, and there is no safe level for the body to absorb,” she says. “I got involved because my industry had done so much damage over the years with lead paint, and I didn’t have a good answer when customers asked, ‘What can I do about my lead hazards?’”
Dages Paint has come a long way from operating out of the trunk of car. The present generation of this hardworking family is setting a new example for what it means to be a woman in business and a service to the community. For more information about Dages Paint, visit www.dagespaint.com.
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