President Adeline Smith is guiding one of the few independent paint manufacturers in the West with a nimble, one-stop-shop approach.

For nearly 60 years, Old Western Paint Company has been making paint it sells to contractors, cities, the state, counties, and just about everybody else.

The business — the last independent paint manufacturer in Colorado — has been family-owned and -operated since John Delmonico, who retired in 1997, acquired it in 1961.

Photos Jonathan Castner

Old Western Paint today manufactures a full line of commercial and residential paints as well as polyurethane floor finishes under the Ply Var brand. Its 21,000-square-foot facility in Denver’s Sun Valley neighborhood has the manufacturing capacity to accommodate more customers.

Being independent does have its advantages. The company looks for niche markets that require small batches of paint. “We’re able to do small batches,” Smith says. “Large manufacturers can’t do 100 gallons or 500 gallons.”

In addition to making its own brand of paint, Old Western Paint is a toll manufacturer, meaning it processes raw materials for other companies that put their own labels on the products. Some of the paint is made from its customers’ own formulas while other products are made using formulas created specifically for a certain client. The company offers support from lab technicians during the formulation process.

“It’s very common in the paint industry,” says Smith, who took over the company when her father retired in 1997. “A lot of manufacturers don’t want to get into the different types of lines.”

To complement its manufacturing capabilities, Old Western Paint carries an extensive inventory of painting supplies such as brushes, rollers, buckets, caulking guns, drop cloths, hand cleaners, knee pads, and safety glasses and goggles, and the company also recycles paint.

Challenges: As a small business, it’s sometimes difficult to compete against the national manufacturers such as Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams. “It’s always a challenge for us to purchase raw materials competitively,” Smith says. “When you’re small you’re at the end of everybody’s run, and it’s difficult to get the raw materials.”

Opportunities: Smith says Old Western Paint also can make specialty products the larger companies won’t because they don’t want to stock raw materials that can’t be used in the manufacturing of the rest of the products they make. For example, the company makes an anti-graffiti coating in 200-gallon batches many municipalities use to ensure graffiti can be removed.

Needs: Old Western Paint needs the pandemic to be over and businesses to return to normal operations. The regulations brought on by COVID-19 pandemic are taking their toll on Old Western Paint. Businesses have been postponing improvement projects such as painting because they’re uncertain what the future holds.

“As companies can open, they start needing things, but paint is way down there,” Smith says. “I think we just have to see what’s going to happen with COVID and see if things are going to open or continue the way they are. We are at the trickle down.”

And because of the pandemic, landlords aren’t evicting tenants, so they’re not repainting apartment units. “We’re asking ourselves, What direction are we going to go?'” Smith says. “The city, the state and the schools have all cut back. If the COVID regulations would loosen up, that would help a lot of things.”