Will Watts was a building contractor in Tennessee for years, always using Memphis, Tenn.-based paint brand Farrell-Calhoun for customer projects. When he came to New Orleans to paint a house, he was surprised there were no Farrell-Calhoun suppliers in the Crescent City.
"They've had stores in Baton Rouge and Mississippi for a while now, but not New Orleans," Watts says. "My family lives in New Orleans and it's been a second home to me, so I went back to Memphis and asked Farrell-Calhoun about opening a store here. They helped guide me through the process."
In April 2011, he opened NOLA Paint & Supplies (2900 Elysian Fields Ave., 504-948-9620, www.nolapaint-andsupplies.com). The shop is the only local dealer of Farrell-Calhoun paint, a family-owned manufacturer that's been making paint since 1905. The brand has a loyal following and draws many customers by word of mouth. "The proof is in the paint," Watts says. "People who know paint keep coming back."
So far, Watts has gotten most of his business from referrals and repeat clients. With store cat J.J. greeting customers, the shop sells the complete line of Farrell-Calhoun paints, including its environmentally friendly "Green Leaf" paint, which meets Leadership Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building standards. "Paint is [going] toward that green movement," Watts says. "Paint used to be evil, toxic, with lead in it — and now it's become a really safe thing."
Farrell-Calhoun also carries the popular Historic Colors of America line, with all 149 tints listed on the architectural color guide devised by Historic New England and Color Guild. Part of its appeal is that all the colors complement one another, Watts says: "You can randomly pick three colors, and they will flow well with each other."
Painting supplies for all size jobs, color advice and custom color matching services round out NOLA Paint's offerings. "We've had people bring in a pillow or piece of fabric, and we'll take a picture of it and match it," Watts says.
"When it's family-owned, there's a difference in quality and attention," he says. "This paint is manufactured in Memphis, and they are all about quality. That's where they make the perfect gallon of paint. They have a testing site and lab there. They make a quality paint that's going to last and work well, and if it doesn't, they are not going to sell it."
Watts says his small business offers quality service and products that are priced comparably to products in big-box stores.
"Most of our customers have shopped at Lowe's or Home Depot, and they have experienced the difference between their products and services and ours," Watts says. "And that's why they keep coming back here. You'd think the big guys would have cheaper prices, but they don't. We don't spend a lot of money on overhead. You don't see commercials and all that, because we need to stay competitive in price. We depend on our reputation and recommendations, and it works well for us."