Larry Dahlman leads a colorful life.
He started painting cottages at age 13, and four years later got a full-time job at Seven’s Paint & Wallpaper in Grand Haven. He’s been there ever since.
When the store’s ownership decided to close the business earlier this year, Dahlman color-matched his career with opportunity and decided to open his own business in the same location at 12 N. Seventh St.
“I’ve been open for about two months now,” said Dahlman, 63. “I worked for Seven’s for 46 years in the same location. Now, it’s locally owned.”
He changed the name to The Paint Store, which has no affiliation with Seven’s. More than half a dozen Seven’s stores have closed in the past two years.
“This Seven’s closed Feb. 28,” Dahlman said. “After 46 years of working for Seven’s, I was unemployed. I kind of saw the writing on the wall. They’d go a couple of months and then close another store.”
Dahlman said it was difficult to watch a 130-year-old company close so many locations.
“Seven’s is five years older than Sears (& Roebuck),” he said. “It started in 1889. It’s almost like Fortino’s. It was a family-owned business for that long. But the fourth-generation closed the stores and brought all the equipment back to the main warehouse.”
When he was 13, Muskegon school teacher Doug Robbins hired Dahlman to paint cottages.
“I was painting in the summers, scraping, priming and painting cottages,” he said. “By the time I graduated (high school), I was running my own paint company, basically. And I learned how to wallpaper. I opened a little spray shop in my garage and was doing commercial spraying of parts for Herman Miller and Structural Concepts. I was on my own painting, still living at home.”
A year after his 1973 high school graduation, he built his own house on West Spring Lake Road.
“The shop was completely finished and I had a shop right there,” he said. “I was painting full time, thinking about going to college.”
But fate remixed the color of his future.
While painting the historic William Ferry House on Lafayette Street in Grand Haven, Dahlman stopped at the nearby Seven’s store for more supplies.
“I came in here and they asked me if I wanted to work at the paint store,” Dahlman said. “I finished painting the house in July, then started working full time here. It’s where I bought all my paint and wallpaper supplies.”
Year after year, Dahlman worked, slowly perfecting his craft of color-matching.
“I just kept going and going, and became manager four years later,” he said. “I managed for 42 years and got to know everyone who had cottages on the lake. They’d come in every year and be surprised I was still working here.”
When Seven’s closed, many customers asked the former manager if he would paint their house. He committed to a couple of projects and painted for about a month. But something else was stirring in his soul.
He contacted the landlord of the former Seven’s store, and also Benjamin Moore Paint and other vendors.
“They all said, ‘Let’s go,’” Dahlman said. “I’m the owner now, not the manager.”
The Paint Store does not carry wallpaper, but it has Benjamin Moore Paint, and stocks tape, sandpaper, rollers and “almost anything you need in the paint field,” Dahlman said. The store is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.
“I’m open 55 hours a week, so I’m putting in some long hours, but I always did,” he said. “I never took a vacation.”