Horell Painting and Wallcovering, Altoona, Pa.
A father’s hard work, dedication and modesty are a model for his son.
by Susan Brimo-Cox
you want on the job, especially if you have a tight deadline. “He’s one of those people who get the job done, on time. And he doesn’t get too excited about things,” observes Joe Zang, manager of the Sherwin-Williams Co. store in Altoona, Pa., where Horell plies his trade.
Horell’s calm demeanor certainly is refreshing in a world that is in such a hurry. That may be part of the reason for his success. That, hard work and his knack for good timing.
The oldest of 10 siblings, Horell was 19 when he started working for Best Possible Surfaces, a janitorial service company. It was with that company, around 1979, that he began painting: interiors, exteriors and residential projects.
A year later he went to work for a local commercial painting contractor, Bob Plunkett Painting. “That’s where I learned to spray and hang vinyl wallpaper, as well as cutting in, rolling on and spraying specialty floors,” Horell recalls. “We did a lot of work for Penn State University Campus. We worked six days a week, seven to five every day.”
Then in 1987, his marriage broke up and he got custody of his 7-year-old son, Johnny. “I wanted to spend more time with him,” Horell says. So, he began taking some side work for neighbors and friends in the evenings, when he could take Johnny along. That’s when his son took his first steps in the painting trade. “Johnny would lay drop cloths and tape off woodwork, and get tools ready,” Horell recalls fondly. The father and son bond grew strong over the years.
Horell says it was about 1989, when Bob Plunkett was getting ready to retire, that he considered going into business for himself. But he had concerns about getting enough residential work to make ends meet. In 1990, good timing eliminated that worry.
Ralph J. Albarano & Sons Inc., one of the largest general contractors in the Altoona area, had just bought Boyertown Amusement Park in a bankruptcy sale. So, Horell went to see Albarano about being a subcontractor. As luck would have it, Albarano’s painter was retiring. Horell was immediately sent to Lakemont Park (formerly Boyertown) to start maintenance painting, and Horell Painting and Wallcovering was born.
Horell started small, growing his business out of his home by word of mouth and recommendations. His crew grew from one employee his second year to four a year later.
“He met the right people and made good contacts for growing his business,” says his son, John F. Horell. And “sometimes you’re only as good as the people who you work for. He picks his clients and customers carefully.”
The older Horell says he primarily focuses on commercial and industrial painting. Twelve months out of the year he has a crew of four. During peak painting season he hires three or four more. “We do about four or five big jobs a year.” And what jobs they are!
In 1997, Horell painted the new $12.5 million Blair County Ballpark. There was a lot of structural steel, as well as sealing and painting of masonry block on the main and upper concourses. “It took about 1,800 gallons of paint on the steel alone,” Horell reports.