By: Jack Roth
Brevard County’s Founders Forum has named Edward and Ruth Richard of Richard’s Paint Manufacturing Company the 2017 Founders of the Year. For the Richard family, paint is in their blood. Not literally, of course, but after six decades in the business, the Richards know how to take care of their clients
In 1954, the average cost of a new house was $10,000, “Father Knows Best” was the most popular TV show, and Elvis Presley was just beginning his iconic music career. It is also when brothers Edward and Joseph Richard of Hialeah, Fla., decided to live the American dream and open a local paint retail store with an initial investment of less than $500. Today, Richard’s Paint Manufacturing Company, Inc., is a multi-million dollar, Space Coast-headquartered business spanning three generations.
“Back then, it was a little easier to start a business than it is today, but it still required a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” said Edward, who, as a painter, mixed paint in a 55-gallon drum with a big paddle. “I let other paint contractors try it and they liked it, so I started producing more paint for the contractors than I did for myself.”
Thanks to his resiliency, that 55-gallon drum has transformed into a sprawling 100,000-square-foot facility with modern offices, as well as laboratories, shipping stations, manufacturing areas and warehouses. Edward’s wife, Ruth, remembers him going into work at 6 a.m. and selling to painters and homeowners all day long.
“I had two small girls at the time and would bring them into the office, set up a playpen in the corner and start working on administrative tasks,” she said. “In the afternoon I would go home and cook dinner. Ed would come home, eat dinner, and then go back to the office and make another batch of paint to sell the next day.”
Edward remembers taking different routes to deliver paint to clients to see what was happening in different neighborhoods. “If I saw somebody painting a house, I would walk up and introduce myself,” he said. “That’s how I built clientele in those early days.”
After buying out his brother in 1957, Edward ramped up manufacturing and custom blending. In 1969, he purchased a 22,000-square foot building in Rockledge, which remains the company’s manufacturing and corporate headquarters. Over the years, additional warehouse space and administrative offices have been added. In 1983, paint sales exceeded the $5 million mark, and today, sales exceed more than $20 million.
The company produces more than 2 million gallons of paint a year, focusing on quality, customer service and building relationships with its independent dealers and contractors. In order to compete with bigger manufacturers, it has to produce a superior product at a good price point because it does not have the deep wallets to compete when it comes to advertising, marketing and promotion.
“The people who stand by our products are the independent dealers and contractors who understand what quality paint is,” explained Edward.
“Back then, it was a little easier to start a business than it is today, but it still required a lot of blood, sweat and tears.”
– Edward Richard
We also have the ability to make small batches of specialty colors with a quick turnaround, and the big guys can’t, or won’t, take on these kinds of projects. Flexibility and responsiveness is what sets us apart from the bigger manufacturers.”
With a strong brand and loyal customer base, Richard’s Paint is a fixture in the southeastern United States and serves more than 400 distributors in places like Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, as well as in international markets such as Saudi Arabia, South America and China. The company also has distributors in the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas.
To know the business will continue to be successful because your kids know what they’re doing makes me happy.” – Edward Richard
A Family Business
Edward, 90, is retired now, but the most important thing to him is that the business remains in the family. For him, it represents the greatest satisfaction as both a business owner and a parent.
“Knowing my sons are running the business and their sons are also involved is the greatest thing,” said Edward, who gets emotional when thinking about it. “To know the business will continue to be successful because your kids know what they’re doing makes me happy.”
Edward’s sons, Edward Jr. and Eric, started working at the company while in junior high school. They did everything, starting from the bottom. “They didn’t report to me; I made them report to their immediate supervisor depending on what they were doing,” said Edward. “They learned the business from the ground up, and I’m lucky they both loved it. I gave them the choice to either go to college or come work with me right after high school.”
Both boys decided to forego college and start right away.
“I learned from the school of hard knocks,” said Eric, president and CEO. “My dad taught me a lot, as did other employees. I think the most important thing I learned from my dad was hard work. He took the business very seriously, which is why he was able to grow it the way he did.”
Edward was also fiscally conservative, which allowed the company to weather economic downturns over the years. In fact, the company is completely debt free. Eric credits his father with remaining steadfast in serving independent dealers and paint stores with the highest level of service, response time and personalized attention.
“This is our identity and who we still are today,” he said.
In 2004, Eric became president at his father’s behest, but he had a conversation with his siblings to ensure everyone was on the same page. Edward Jr. serves as VP and COO, handling everything behind the front office, including manufacturing, shipping and purchasing. Eric has always been more of a sales and marketing guy, but they are both well versed in every aspect of the company. Eric has been in the paint business for 38 years; Edward Jr. is a 39-year pro.
“I think the most important thing I learned from my dad was hard work. He took the business very seriously, which is why he was able to grow it the way he did.” – Eric Richard
“We all support each other, and it’s a team effort,” said Edward Jr. “This business is in our blood; we basically grew up here. Fortunately, both Eric and I love what we do, and we’re totally committed to this company and continuing to grow it.”
Looking Ahead and Giving Thanks
With a solid reputation in place, Eric has placed an emphasis on continued growth. The company recently joined a buying group called All-Pro, which is made up of 400 to 500 owners representing 1,100 paint stores. He describes it as a co-op of owners that enables them to buy as a group.
“This network has given our products even more of a nationwide market,” he said. “We gain retailers all the time, and the management of the All-Pro group is pushing us to expand. We’re in markets all over the world at this point. Of course this hasn’t happened overnight; we’ve been in business a long time, but we’ve always strived for manageable growth.”
The Richards believe the support of the local community has been critical to their company’s success. Having strong ties in Brevard County is something they take great pride in; every year, the company donates thousands of gallons of paint to local churches, schools, charity organizations and other local entities.
Edward, who stops by the facility a few days a week, still cares deeply about the business and loves to watch his sons run it. “I like being around this environment,” he said. “It’s been my life’s work, and now I get to see my sons continue the legacy.”
For Eric and Edward Jr., the goal is to continue to provide outstanding products and services while also continuing to grow … and keeping it a family business.
“My and Eric’s son are in their 30s now and both working for the company,” said Edward Jr., “so hopefully we can continue on this family journey for some time to come.”