You can still buy O’Leary paints in Ann Arbor, but you can’t buy it at O’Leary Paint any longer. The company closed its store on West Stadium on March 1. Now, if you want O’Leary paint, you’ll have to go three doors down (or across town) to Anderson Paint. In an unusual move that the owners of both businesses hope will benefit everyone involved, Lansing-based O’Leary Paint, which manufactures its own line of paints, agreed to close its Ann Arbor location (it has nine others) if Anderson Paints would agree to sell O’Leary paint in its stores–on West Stadium and at 4573 Washtenaw.
“We thought if they represented our product, they could represent it as well as we could in that market … and it would be more profitable for both of us,” says co-owner Dave O’Leary, “and probably better for the customers as well. It was an unusual situation where you could have a win-win-win.”
When the company opened in Ann Arbor thirty years ago, its name was Silver Lead Paint. The name had nothing to do with the lead that was used as an additive in some paints before being outlawed in 1977. Founded in 1891, the company was named after a mine in Colorado called the Silver Lead Mine–because the founder just liked the sound of it. “And that’s a name we’ve been running from,” O’Leary laughs. Dave and his brother, John, are the fourth generation of O’Learys to helm the company. “When we started manufacturing [our own paint] thirty years ago, we knew that we couldn’t have the name Lead be on a label with paint,” Dave says. “So we called the product O’Leary Paint. But then we had O’Leary Paint available exclusively in a Silver Lead store, which didn’t make any sense. So we changed the name of the company.”
Both Bob Anderson and Dave O’Leary single out longtime O’Leary store manager Steve Keith as being vital to the success of the venture. “Steve Keith is critical in making this thing work,” O’Leary says. “If he wasn’t going to be part of the program, I don’t know if there would have been a program.”
Keith, fifty-two, has been with O’Leary Paint for thirty-three years, but he says going over to Anderson made sense for him, too. “I live in town. I’ve known the Andersons. I know the O’Leary products and the O’Leary clientele. I’d have thought with a deal like that we’d have had more hiccups, either with inventory or customers or personnel, but it’s been almost unbelievably seamless.”