P. J. Gleason, center, President of Porcelain Patch discusses new Volkswagen “shop on wheels” with Gene Cleary, left, Franchise Sales Manager East coast, and Albert Easterday, right, Franchise Sales Manager Mid-West. Trucks carry all necessary equipment including portable compressor, spray guns, masking equipment, drop cloths and refinishing materials.
Most businesses will grow and flourish because of a basic need for the service they perform. This is particularly true of the Porcelain Patch & Glaze Corp., of Newton, Massachusetts, a coast to coast franchised dealer organization solving the refinishing problems of housewives, appliance dealers, department stores, and others in need of a new finish on any object. What has made their service so desirable is their ability to travel anywhere to complete the refinishing on location.
In the case of the housewife desiring a new color on her old refrigerator, all that is required is to call Porcelain Patch. The refrigerator will be refinished, in her home, in a matter of hours without even re-moving the food or turning off the power. For the appliance dealer in need of touch up transit damage to an appliance, or a custom colored washer, the work is completed right in his own store. And so it goes, in over 30 major metropolitan areas, workmen traveling each day, spray gun in hand, to complete a wide variety of refinishing jobs.
A Hobby Becomes a Business
What is today a thriving nationwide business was started back in 1938 as a hobby of A. B. Smith. While working for a nearby paint company in Boston, Smith spent his evenings patching porcelain for neighbors. It wasn’t long before he was able to interest appliance stores in the area into doing touch up repairing on refrigerators and stoves. With more work than could be handled on a part-time basis, he left his job in Boston and devoted full time to his porcelain patching business.
In 1946, Phillip J. Gleason, now President of the firm, joined Smith as a partner. The demand for their services continued to grow after World War II, as the availability of appliances increased. Appliance manufacturers, distributors, dealers, department stores, storage warehouses and truckers found it more profit-able to utilize Porcelain Patch than to hire their own employees. The Newton office soon had eight full time workers working in and around Boston.
“With our tremendous success in New England,” says Gleason, “We were convinced there was a need for our services in other cities. In a few short years we were able to set up franchised dealers in cities from Maine to California.” Today. there are 30 dealers who operate under the Porcelain Patch Co. name. Plans for expansion in the near future will increase the number of dealers to 65.
In setting up new branches. Mr. Gleason selects each area by size and trading potential. The name of the firm has become so well known in the field that it is largely a question of finding capable men willing to go into business for themselves. “A small investment of $750 is all it takes,” says Gleason, “we do the rest.” The “rest” involves initial contact of the prospective customers, an intensive training program, complete set of spray equipment and Du Pont materials available locally, and promotional advertising in the area when the branch is opened. During the training period, men are taught 1. how to repair chipped porcelain, 2. spot repairing on new appliances, 3. complete refinishing of refrigerators and kitchen cabinets and 4. refinishing of other equipment.
The average dealer operation has two men, with some as large as five all employed full time. Generally they operate out of their own homes, garages or trucks. The only overhead expense is that of a telephone answering service. In some cases, a small shop may be rented, although it is not required. Mr. Gleason estimates his 30 outlets will do $1 million volume in 1961.
Porcelain Patch has been called on to refinish al-most anything that can be painted, however the bulk of their work can be found in several categories.
The largest single segment of their business is made up of customers dealing with appliances. These are distributors, dealers, department stores, storage warehouses and truckers in need of touch up repair or complete refinishing. This work is done on refrigerators, washers, dryers, sink and wall cabinets, ironers, ranges etc. which have become scratched, chipped or marred making them unsaleable in that condition. Porcelain Patch estimates they have saved customers thousands of dollars in this area alone. There is a large potential here for custom color work to match
other kitchen appliances. Mr. Gleason has found that most dealers will stock white appliances and refer their customers to Porcelain Patch for a particular color. This eliminates the inventory problem in colored merchandise for dealers.
The second largest group of customers is made up of people desiring work to be done in the home. This involves refinishing old as well as new appliances, and often customizing a complete kitchen. Workers have been asked to match the color of wall tiles, floors, draperies, wall paper, stoves and an endless number of items. In promoting this type of refinishing, Mr. Gleason utilizes the slogan: “Color Is The Heart Of Your Kitchen.” He is very aware of the trend toward color in appliances in recent years and predicts that there will be an even greater demand in years to come.
The remainder of the calls to Porcelain Patch fall into a miscellaneous category of items refinished on location. A partial list might include office furniture, dental equipment, air conditioners, filing cabinets, elevator cabs, laboratory equipment, water heaters, lawn mowers, porch furniture, vending machines, and even small kitchen appliances. On occasion, the smaller items are brought into the shop to be refinished.
At main headquarters in Newton, Mass., Mrs. Helen O’Brien, office manager for six years, checks daily records with P. J. Gleason. Map in background pinpoints location of 30 franchised dealers. Number will increase to 65 by end of 1961.
Growing in popularity is the customized kitchen. Here worker pre-pares to add new color to refrigerator, wall and sink cabinets and other items in a home located in the suburbs of Boston. Dents, scratches and other defects are properly prepared before spraying. Note drop cloths and masked areas to prevent any overspray.