SALEM — For 76 years, Superior Paint and Wallpaper has been a staple for contractors and do-it-yourself homeowners in Salem. But at the end of the month, the second oldest retail store in Salem will close its doors for good.
Bill Allison bought the store that its on the corner of Pershing Street in the heart of Salem from the Lepping family in 1995 after working there for 21 years.
He came into the business after serving in the Army with the plan of taking over the store from the original owners who did not have anyone to pass it onto. Now, Allison faces the same dilemma and has decided to say goodbye to the store and begin his well-earned retirement.
The closure comes at what Allison says is the peak of his business. The stay-at-home orders brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic brought in a new wave of bored homeowners looking to spruce up their space.
“These people can’t go anywhere,” Allison said. “They’re just sitting at home, and when you’re sitting at home looking at your four walls, you’re thinking, ‘Hmm, I should paint that’ or ‘I was going to stain that,’” Allison said.
Allison has the unique position of watching home renovation trends come and go over the decades. He said that in the last year, people have made the move from soft tan and beige paint and are now gravitating toward gray and black. While natural wood cabinets were popular in the late to mid 2000s, he says more and more people are painting their kitchen cabinets gray, white or even navy blue to complement their newly-painted gray walls. Wallpaper is another trend he has seen re-emerge, but he says it is now mostly used as an accent in a room rather than on all four walls.
Large chain stores have notoriously swallowed up small local businesses over time, but Superior Paint has been able to hold its own all these years. Allison says it is because of the one-of-a-kind color matching the store provides for paints and even wood stains. They have it down to a science due to the fact they have been doing it long before the computers at the big-box stores have and can match any swatch perfectly — something that customers love and cannot find anywhere else.
“We can custom tailor a color, even if the computer isn’t telling you how to do it. If you need a nuance of a color and it just doesn’t show up on the 8,000 color cards you can choose from, you have to make it,” he said.
Professional contractors make up a large portion of his business which he believes is due to the color matching. If a contractor is fixing a wall that was already painted, Allison can match the paint on the wall perfectly, so at the end of the day you cannot tell it was ever repaired.
Those same contractors are now asking the question, “What do we do now?” Allison wishes he could answer it. Allison considers his business as a “dying art” and hopes that it does not die along with the store.
The unique services that Superior Paint and Wallpaper provides will be missed by the loyal customers who have relied on them over the last seven decades.
After dedicating himself to his customers for the last 46 years, Allison is ready to retire, and he is looking forward to spending his weekdays –not just the weekend –on the golf course.
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