Despite the many challenges of the current pandemic, there is no shortage of success stories of small painting contractors who, against all odds, pulled through. One of the most inspiring stories is that of Javier Torres, owner of Major League Painting, a small and energetic company in Palo Alto, California, that he founded in the midst of COVID-19 in 2020.
“My first job as a company was to paint about eight empty apartments, but when I started there were so many restrictions because of the virus that I finally decided to do all the work by myself, so as not to bother anyone.”
But the pandemic, he maintains, was paradoxically beneficial to many painters. “Because people were spending so much time in their homes, they noticed all details inside and wanted something better.”
In those days he also learned the importance of being detail-oriented and of a professional attitude in all aspects.
“Shortly after that I started working with a designer. I really like working with her because she usually brings me high-end projects, with lots of custom details,” he says. “And she likes the way I work. It is my idea that, when I arrive at a place to work, I should leave everything cleaner than when I arrived. She loved that attitude and has led me to work on good projects that, in general, have made a big chunk of my company’s income.”
A change for the better
Javier Torres’ life is a success story about overcoming adversity. Although he was born in El Salvador and came to the United States at a young age, he dropped out of school because he got caught up in the bad influences of his neighborhood street life. Determined to make a definitive change in his life, he studied for his GED and got a job in landscaping.
One day, frustrated because his boss didn’t want to pay him what he was due, he accepted the offer of a friend who convinced him to change jobs and try painting. It was already 2010.
“I was lucky because I started working in companies that were dedicated to custom homes and so I learned the finer points of painting, and I was fortunate to be taught well by the guys who were my colleagues. I found that I loved that job. Then I worked in commercial painting, but I was already married and my wife didn’t like it when I took off to work in other states like Washington, Colorado and Alaska,” he says. Already a foreman, it was time to follow his dream of owning his own company. In January 2020, he passed the exam to get his painter’s license.
The company today
Currently, Major League Painting has five employees. So far this year it has already billed $300,000 between commercial and residential projects and expects to reach $500,000 by the end of the year, Torres says, though experience has taught him to be cautious.
“But it’s not about the money, it’s about the passion I have for painting. I like to do everything because every project is different, and one has to use different techniques and materials for each case.”
But that doesn’t mean he accepts just any kind of work, he says.
“I take pride in what I do. I recently went to quote on a job with aging oil-based paint. To paint over that, the owners didn’t want to pay for a good job. They just wanted me to do a quick sanding and to paint it just like that. I told them, ‘If you want me to do it like that, you better call someone else. Even if you sell the property fast, it’s going to get out that Major League Painting did the job, and it will be a discredit. I’d rather not do the job than to run the risk of discrediting what I’ve worked so hard for,” he says.
Being a painter is no small thing, says Javier Torres. “Every painter should be proud. One should say ‘Yes, I am a painter!’ And to say it with the conviction that you are a painter because you know how to do things well.”
Painting like a pro
In his day-to-day work, Javier Torres always uses the Sherwin-Williams® PRO+ app to place his orders.
“I place the order today and tomorrow I pick it up in the morning,” he says.
Another way that Sherwin-Williams makes his life easy is through ColorSnap® Match, a handheld tool and app that provides the closest Sherwin-Williams color. He finds it extremely useful in his commercial jobs.
In addition to the convenience of having stores close to all of his jobsites, Sherwin- Williams sales reps come calling whenever he needs them.
“I was recently painting about 35 doors in a basement and every time, after I sprayed, the paint sagged and ran off. When the rep arrived, he explained to me that all the moisture was getting locked up down there which was keeping the paint from drying and that’s why it was sagging. On his advice, I rented a dehumidifier and left it on. Problem solved! The reps know a lot of tricks that you wouldn’t even think of. That’s why it’s important to keep an open mind to new ideas, new ways of doing things,” he concludes.
This article was originally published in the Fall 2021 issue of Pintor Pro magazine. Story by Jorge Arboleda, Pintor Pro senior editor. Photography by Ebbe Roe. Read more stories about successful painting contractors in the Pintor Pro archive.