By Claudie Benjamin
For at least ten years before the Covid period, the trend in paint colors for many apartments of the Upper West Side leaned toward variations in a palette of whites and grays. Over the last months, the mood has changed and customers are definitely painting or having their walls painted in richer, deeper and more vibrant colors. Joe Cacciola, Store Manager of Janovic Paint & Decorating Center at 159 West 72nd Street, can’t be sure if the change is attributable to the feeling that spending most of the time at home brings on a need for color, or if it’s for other reasons, “But I definitely see the change,” he says.
Joe has been immersed in color and paint for at least 20 years. “I look at color all day long.” He started out professionally as an easel painter, who ground his own pigments. He was also taking jobs to do wall painting to pay the rent. From there, beginning 15 years ago he started working at Janovic as a salesman, eventually becoming store manager. The job is in large part providing step by step guidance to do-it-yourself customers, a group that has grown in recent months. Joe and other Janovic staff also regularly address the needs of contractors working for customers and their decorators who usually know exactly what they want and expect “5 star” service. “We stand by our reputation as a ‘Color Authority’”.
Joe and other staff take pride that their business has mixed and supplied paint to hundreds of regular local customers who return year after year, as well as for huge projects like the restoration of the King’s Theater, a former movie palace in Brooklyn. “It’s amazing,” Joe says. The Janovic website also lists supplying paint for the Museum of Modern Art, the New York Library and The Manhattan Park Pool.
Janovic was already an established paint store when it opened its West 72nd Street location in 1973. Established on the East Side in 1883, a dozen locations followed, with Janovic becoming the go-to location for home decoration in a half dozen NYC neighborhoods.
Longtime employees, like Joe, have often worked at multiple locations and respect the skills of fellow employees. Speaking about Ray Vargas who works in the Hell’s Kitchen store, Joe says he’s an extraordinary mixer: “the best mixer in the world”. What does that mean? Joe explains that customers, particularly from high rent neighborhoods who are paying top dollar, expect their paint to match perfectly with paint samples of existing painted surfaces, upholstery or floor coverings.
In this age of technology, an instrument called a spectrometer is able to scan a sample and provide specifications for mixing paint to ensure a precise match. However, with someone like Vargas, the technology is superfluous; he has the intuitive skills, knowledge of paint and experience to produce a nearly exact match. At the West 72nd Street store, Joe can also perform this kind of magic. “Although business is down 20 percent related to Covid-related conditions” Joe says, “I feel lucky to be working.”