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It is normal for us as consumers to rely on manufacturers to tell us how to use their products, and of course, what’s good about them. In trade magazines, that is exactly what they do for their readers. But sometimes, as costumers we feel the need to go past that and ask our manufacturers to guide us to quality painters who use their quality products. If a painter can give a good testimonial, it’s one more reason for checking something out. The Paint Contractor, a trade magazine, went ahead and contacted the best painting and decorating company in the Chicago area. They chose to pick the brain of yours truly, Hester Painting & Decorating. Based in the Chicago, IL suburb of Skokie, Hester Painting and Decorating has been doing good work since its founding in 1968. It was started by Tom Hester and now his sons Jeff and Steve are at the helm. “We run a commercial and residential division—it’s about sixty percent commercial and fourty percent high end residential,” said Jeff Hester. “We do decorative finishes and high end wallpaper.” For a long-lived company like this, quality matters, and Jeff offered to share his experiences with Purdy and its products.

For starters, he works with Purdy to get the word out in the form of product. “I’m the chairman at our joint apprenticeship committee program in Chicago,” said Hester, who is currently the President at the Finishing Contractors of Association of Chicago, which is affiliated with both the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America (PDCA) and the Finishing Contractors of America (FCA). “We run a school where painters take a year of training, and every year Purdy gives us thousands of dollars in brushes and rollers. Some of it is for good will and some is to let younger painters have a good quality brush and roller sleeve so they can see what the difference is.” It’s no secret, Hester reminds us, that the most expensive paint in the world can be ruined when applied by a $5 brush. “I don’t care if you spend $30 or $80 a gallon, if you’re not applying with the right tool, it’s not going to look right,” he said.

Hester lauds Purdy for anticipating changes in the industry rather than reacting to them. “I’ve been doing this for 35 years and when I first came in the trade everything was oil,” he said. There may come a time when painters say “what’s oil paint,” but we’re not quite there yet. “At that time, nothing was waterborne, but now I would say 90% of our industry is waterborne and 10% is oil. Out of all the brush makers and roller manufactures, they’ve kept up ahead of that curve rather than discovering ‘oh my gosh we have to change!’ They are leaders in the industry as far as being ahead of the science of paint.” Along with science, though, you need someone in the field to test it out, and Hester is happy to be one of those folks who get to try some of the company’s new brush formulations. “A lot of times the Purdy guys will drop off some new brushes and say, ‘Give this to some of your better guys, just let us know the feedback. This is what we are thinking of changing it to.’”

If the painters are not happy with the test products, they’ll say so—but that’s the point! Hester takes the comments back to Purdy so they can make changes and have the brush perform to a pro painter’s satisfaction. “They use that feedback from their relationship with painters in developing their new products, versus relying only on a scientist in a back room. The scientists don’t know how to paint!” But the science guy, after hearing from the paint guy, can change it up so the latest and greatest coatings will go on with the latest and greatest applicators. Finally, says Jeff, returns are easy. Quality control is great, but there will come a time when something slips by. “If we bring it back it’s immediately changed out,” he reports. “You don’t get fifty questions. They just say ‘here’s another one. Sorry!’ They are more of a partner than a supplier. They take their time and help as much as they can.”

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