Name: Sandy Cronin
Job: Vice president of operations
Business: San Luis Paints
What he said then: In May 2011, The Tribune reported San Luis Paints was closing its shop in San Luis Obispo and consolidating in its larger West Grand Avenue store in Grover Beach. Citing a sluggish economy and slow sales, Sandy Cronin said it was a tough decision for his family’s company.
“Right now, San Luis Obispo has eight different places to buy paint, most of which are large corporations,” said Cronin, who manages the business as vice president of operations. “In addition, Grover Beach has greater sales and a higher customer count.”
He said then year-to-date sales were up over the same period in early 2010.
What he says now: With reduced overhead and a focus on commercial accounts, San Luis Paints is holding its own in Grover Beach despite some loss of market share from the San Luis Obispo closure.
“At the end of 2011, our sales overall were still up 10 percent year over year,” Cronin said. “We worked pretty hard at getting some big commercial accounts last year. That really helped.”
Owned by the same family that founded it in 1965, San Luis Paints was once a local manufacturer. In 2005, it sold the plant and several stores to Hamilton Coatings, which closed them by 2007.
“The factory was kind of the cornerstone of the whole business,” Cronin said. “Now we’re a retail paint store that sells Benjamin Moore Paints.”
San Luis Paints’ five employees — and their colleagues throughout the industry — work harder for each sale these days.
“When the housing market was good, nobody worried about it,” Cronin said. “Painters had more work than they could handle. Our sales were up 20 percent each month without trying.”
Today, they make house calls to consult with customers on-site — and they’ll go as far as Paso Robles for loyal customers. Cronin, who manages the store, spends much of his day making sales calls.
Two years ago, the family also started another business: San Luis Junk Removal, which it promotes on the paint store website.
Now Cronin hopes a new agreement with Dunn-Edwards Paints in Los Angeles will help attract new sales and customers.
“People who are transplants from Southern California generally know the brand,” which has company stores in other areas, Cronin said. “The Central Coast isn’t a big enough market for them.”
By keeping its own overhead low, Dunn-Edwards can produce a paint “that’s really good quality at a really good price,” Cronin said. “So we can offer customers a little more bang for the buck.”
The manufacturer also offers free, flexible shipping and sales support with commercial customers.
“They would ship without charging freight for it, which is great because gas is expensive,” Cronin said. “We’re independent of them, but they kind of treat us like their own stores. We get to ride their coattails in that sense.”
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