10406 Tucker Street
Duron paints have been used at the Pentagon, Walt Disney World, MGM Studios--even the White House. But while Duron's business has grown, its mission has remained the same--to meet the needs of professional painters better than anyone else in the business.
Duron Inc. is a paint manufacturer and retailer dedicated to the professional user. It is one of the top three dealers in the United States, according to some sources. Dr. Robert Feinberg, son of company founder Harry Feinberg, helped guide the company to more than two decades of double-digit growth before it was acquired by Sherwin-Williams Co. in September 2004. The company focused its expansion east of the Mississippi, with about 231 retail stores. Duron paint has been used on a number of historic edifices, including the White House.
Duron Inc. dates back to 1949, when Harry Feinberg, formerly a paint chemist with Baltimore's H.B. Davis Company, acquired a 50 percent share of Washington, D.C.'s Norman Paint Manufacturing Co., which supplied three paint stores from a cramped, 4,000-square-foot factory. Feinberg brought with him a way of making a thick, smooth paint.
Feinberg renamed the newly acquired company Duron Paint Manufacturing Co. According to the Washington Post, the name was meant to evoke the idea of durability and the then-cutting edge aura of nylon. Feinberg's main marketing technique was giving out free samples. It worked.
From the beginning, the business was oriented toward professional painters and contractors, rather than the do-it-yourself crowd. To woo these tradesmen, who bought paint in large quantities, Duron put considerable resources into customer service, which would include making deliveries to job sites and maintaining early morning hours. It was able to save money by not advertising to attract the retail consumer.
Feinberg quickly lined up a handful of dealers in neighboring states. The first of Duron's own stores, the Metropolitan Paint Co., opened in 1950 to fill a niche in the Washington, D.C. market. Over the years, the paint came to be used in a number of historic area buildings, including the Pentagon, Capitol Building, and White House.
Feinberg moved the company's operations to a new paint factory in Beltsville, Maryland in 1957. (According to the Washington Post, the sloped site helped move the paint through its production line.) It was a time of great expansion. Within a few years, Duron acquired its dealers in Baltimore and Richmond and opened new stores in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Duron had 45 stores and 450 employees by 1974, when sales were $18 million.
Second Generation On Board in 1976
Dr. Robert Feinberg, son of company founder Harry Feinberg, left a promising career as an organic chemistry professor to join Duron as secretary-treasurer in 1976. (He was an alumnus of both Harvard and Oxford.) This started a period of double-digit annual growth of the company that would continue to the end of the century.
By 1979, the company's Beltsville, Maryland plant was producing 20,000 gallons of latex and oil-based paint a day. With 280,000 square feet of warehouse space, the plant also was used to store wallpaper and painting equipment for distribution.
New Reach for the 1990s
Extending its reach in the South, Duron opened a latex paint plant in Atlanta in 1989. It cost $11.5 million to build and had a capacity of 30,000 gallons a day. Duron already had a dozen stores in the Atlanta area and was planning to open a dozen more within five years, reported the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, on the strength of the area's booming real estate market.
The company also broadened its marketing somewhat. Duron introduced paints aimed at the do-it-yourselfer in 1992. These were retailed first by the Hechinger Co. chain for a few years, then by Home Depot.
Duron had 1,400 employees in 1994. It operated 150 of its own stores and supplied another 150 dealers, according to National Home Center News.
The company continued to grow by acquisition. It bought 27 M. Buten & Sons Inc. stores in the Philadelphia area in 1994. Buten, a retail chain, was founded by Max Buten in 1897 and had been family owned and operated for four generations. (It sold Benjamin Moore brand paint before the acquisition.) Duron also was opening 19 stores that year and began 1995 with more than 200 stores in all. Sales were around $250 million in 1995.
The chain was expanding through Ohio, Florida, and New Jersey. It was still strongest in the Washington, D.C. area, where perhaps two-thirds of its stores were located. Duron paint also was sold by more than 250 other paint retailers; this channel accounted for 5 percent of sales, according to the Washington Post.
Company founder Harry Feinberg passed away in 1996. Thomas K. Schwartzbeck became Duron's president. He had started with the company as a clerk in 1975.
A dozen stores was acquired from Chicago-based Fancy Colours and Co. in 1997. By the late 1990s, the paint industry in the United States was in the midst of a massive consolidation, reducing the number of players from about 1,500 to 800 in ten years. Dr. Feinberg, then president and CEO, stated his ambition for the company to be one of a half dozen or so surviving national players. The value of the overall paint market was estimated at $13 billion.
50 in 1999
Annual sales were more than $300 million during Duron's 50th anniversary year in 1999, when Duron produced 17 million gallons of paint. The company had 265 company-owned stores and was planning to add at least 30 a year through 2005. It had about 1,900 employees and a fleet of 150 trucks.
According to the Washington Post, Dr. Feinberg endeavored to make Duron an engaging place to work. The company was known for giving branch stores a high degree of autonomy and was said to be generous in its benefits, such as profit-sharing. While he lamented the difficulty of maintaining a family atmosphere at the growing company, the Post commented on the number of married couples--100 by one count--who had met while working there.
Duron had entered the southern Florida market early in 1999 by buying a single store from Broward Paint and Wallpaper, a nine-store chain in Tampa and Orlando. Broward had sales of $6.5 million and dated back to 1947.
In 2001 Duron struck a deal to have TruServ Corp. manufacture its paint under license for distribution at qualified True Value hardware stores across the country. True Value dealers who wanted to sell the Duron brand were encouraged to undergo training and hire salespeople dedicated to the pro painting business.
In early 2002, Duron joined Professional Paint, Inc. (PPI) of Denver in an alliance to bid on national accounts. Duron was focusing expansion of its own retail stores east of the Mississippi. In 2002, the company acquired a Raleigh, North Carolina dealer, Johnson Paint, and opened stores in Maryland, Georgia, Florida, and Virginia. It abandoned the Midwest market by selling 27 stores in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio to Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries.
New Ownership in 2004
Revenues were $350 million in 2003. By some reckonings, this made Duron the country's third largest paint dealer. Late in the year, the company announced that it was licensing the right to reproduce colors from Mount Vernon. The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association had years earlier commissioned a study to determine the mansion's original color scheme in George Washington's day. The Estate of Colours collection included 30 hues from the mansion itself and another 90 inspired by the plantation. A few months later, Duron licensed another line from the Historic Charleston Foundation.
Sherwin-Williams Co., the country's largest paint manufacturer with annual sales of more than $5 billion, acquired Duron on September 2004 for $250 million in cash and assumed obligations. Sherwin-Williams was aiming to bolster its business with paint professionals, and Duron CEO Dr. Robert Feinberg was preparing to retire. At the time of the buy, Duron was the 12th leading paint company in the United States.
Principal Competitors: Benjamin Moore and Co.; Home Depot, Inc.; ICI Paints.
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