PaintPRO, Vol. 9, No. 1
January/February 2007
PaintPRO, Vol 9 No 1

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Other articles in this issue:
Profile: Thomas Moore Studios
Technique: Distressing Cabinets
Estimating Etc.
Business Strategies
Product Profile
Finishing Touch
Paint Industry News
Product News
PaintPRO Archives — Painter of the Month
L.C. Jergens Painting





L.C. Jergens Painting Co., Seattle, Wash.

When many people in the Seattle area hear the name L.C. Jergens, the first word that comes to mind is “quality.” In many cases, the company has painted something they own — and painted it well.
by Stacey Enesey Klemenc

“Quality. That’s our main buzzword,” says Tim Jergens, whose father, Larry, founded L.C. Jergens Painting Co. back in 1966. “And we’re diverse. That’s what separates us from a lot of shops.”

The younger Jergens, who has served as company president since 2000, says the company’s forte is high-end custom homes, but it also does a fair share of interior and exterior commercial jobs.

Tim Jergens, president of L.C. Jergens L.C. Jergens Painting Co.
Tim Jergens, president of L.C. Jergens Painting Co. in Seattle, helps a customer pick out a finish in the company’s design studio, which has since been remodeled. L.C. Jergens Painting Co.’s niche includes painting and finishing woodwork in high-end custom homes.

In 1992, the company opened a 5,000-square-foot finish shop to assist painters with their high-end custom work. The facility accommodates a range of applications, from ferrous and nonferrous metals to fine quality furniture and decorative pieces. At the shop, painters regularly finish doors, molding, shelving and cabinets for new construction and remodeling projects.

“It’s a controlled environment,” Jergens says, “and it helps with job efficiency.” The off-site facility, he explains, gives his crews more room to do what needs to be done on-site. It is also used by sign-makers, cabinetmakers and furniture builders who are interested in quality finishes and unusual coloring, he adds.

L.C Jergens' cabinetry work in a law office in Seattle
In this law office in Seattle, L.C Jergens’ cabinetry work involves a metal flake finish in between the cabinets and glass top,
and a dye stain and conversion varnish finish on the natural-looking portion.

Four years ago, L.C. Jergens Painting opened another finish shop, devoted to finishing high-end wood doors and windows for Quantum Windows & Doors Inc. of Everett, Wash. Jergens does an estimated $500,000 to $600,000 a year in business with them. The company supplies windows and doors throughout the country, with the bulk of its wares distributed in Hawaii, Texas and California.

The big picture
Tim Jergens’ first brush with painting began in the sixth grade when he used to ride in a truck going from job to job with his dad and his uncle. Being the second oldest of six children, it got him out of the house and into the world. But most of all, he recalls, it was fun. “I loved painting from the git-go.” Before too long, he was being dropped off at jobs and earning some spending money.

“I worked my way up from bucket washer to journeyman painter,” Jergens says. Out of all of his siblings, he was the only one interested in joining the family business. He studied business at Seattle University, worked for other paint companies and ran his own business before rejoining his father in 1985. He’s held myriad positions, progressing from field superintendent to shop manager, estimator and finally head honcho in charge of it all.

Tim Jergens’ father, who he says is one of his best friends, retired in 2000. “We all strive to live up to what he built,” he says. “He’s the one who built the reputation for quality that the business enjoys now and we all remember whose name is on the outside of the building.”

L.C. Jergens Painting Co.'s paint crew
L.C. Jergens Painting Co.'s paint crew
One of the crew members sprays a conversion varnish on a door in L.C. Jergens’ finish shop in Seattle, while another applies varnish by hand.

His father’s original 10-man crew has blossomed into 50 painters in the field and roughly 10 support staff, as well as more than 20 shop workers. Jergens estimates his company did a little more than $5 million in work last year.

A class all of its own
“If a painter comes to work for me, he can do everything from concrete tilt-up and multimillion-dollar custom homes to painting the exterior of residential homes and applying Venetian plaster inside,” he says.

Not all at once, mind you. “We’re compartmentalized,” Jergens explains, adding that a painter can work in one division for awhile before moving on to another.

Among the different areas is a special division that just handles Venetian plaster, one of the most popular finishes requested these days, and a maintenance division that deals with yearly maintenance of the high-end custom homes. There’s a faux division that handles everything from marbleizing, painting cloud effects, glazing and graining to distressing, acid staining, and applying metallic finishes and automotive coatings.

The company has had its share of odd requests, Jergens says, like one customer wanting her cabinets to be the same metal-flake color as her BMW.

The company’s specialty — applying finishes and glazes to exotic and ordinary woods — is in a class all of its own.

Jergens boasts that he has some of the most talented people in the business working for him and that they came to him looking for a job. “People seek me out, not the other way around,” he says. “I treat my people good. I don’t treat them like numbers. They understand that we have to deliver customer service or we’ll lose that reputation that my father worked so hard to build. You can’t buy that kind of dedication; people have to want to be a part of that. And when you have a group of people with talent and understanding, it makes the going a lot easier.”

It helps that L.C. Jergens is a union paint shop, and that the company is affiliated with the Painters Progression, formerly known as Painters Advanced Training Institute, which provides training to all the professional painters Jergens hires.

Some of L.C. Jergens Painting Co.'s residential jobs
Some of L.C. Jergens Painting Co.’s residential jobs are akin to many commercial jobs because the homes are so huge. “Many of these aren’t just homes,” Tim Jergens says. “They’re like complexes.” Seen here is the kitchen and den of a house overlooking Lake Washington. The kitchen woodwork has been painted and glazed, while the den’s woodwork features a dye-stained finish with a raw umber glaze and a conversion varnish.

“We’ve been a union shop for 40 years now and we’re proud of that,” Jergens says. “We’re approached by the more career-type individuals who want to invest their lives in the trade rather than the transients who are just looking for a job. We offer health benefits and a pension plan that goes along with it. A union is a good fit for us and our reputation. If we went nonunion, I don’t think we’d have the quality of workers that we have now.”

Blending the old with the new
L.C. Jergens Painting Co. works extensively with architects, designers and general contractors to blend “old school” craftsmanship with the latest technology. As a member of the architectural preservation organization, Historic Seattle, the company prides itself on delivering tried-and-true craftsmanship in an updated way. Recent jobs include restoration work on Historic Seattle’s Dearborn House (1907) and the Stimson-Green Mansion (1899-1901). Currently, L.C. Jergens is busy with a row of admirals’ homes built in the 1800s on the Navy base in Bremerton, Wash.

“A lot of artists can do the finishes, but can they keep up with a commercial schedule?” Jergens asks. “When you get into high-end custom homes where customers want Old World Venetian plaster or distressed looks, you have to bring it into the 21st century. You have to have the background and skills to rise to the occasion and keep to a schedule.

“There’s money on the line,” he continues, “with interest on that money. You can’t show up at 9 o’clock. You have to show up on time and deliver quality.” And L.C. Jergens Painting makes it its business to do just that.

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