Summer is the busiest time of year for professional house painters, something Peter Berke, owner of North Atlantic Painting Company, knows too well. He just partnered with Jeff Neuman, owner of another painting company called Atomic Painting, this summer and there is no shortage of work to be done.
Berk currently has five big jobs going, including the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Jackson Memorial Library in Tenants Harbor, Jameson Point condominiums in Rockland and Cappy's Chowder House in Camden, but took a half hour to sit down with Penobscot Bay Pilot and answer some questions.
When did North Atlantic Painting Company start?
In 2000, kind of on a whim. I was a one-man operation then. Now we're up to about 17 employees. It's been wonderful because I haven't really had to leave the Midcoast area for work in 13 years.
Since you moved here in 2000, you've been really involved in your community. For example, just last week you were helping to organize West Bay Rotary's Duck Derby (see our accompanying story). What's in it for you?
In being part of the community, like the Chamber of Commerce and West Bay Rotary, supporting high school and middle school events, I've helped get my name out there. And that might have been the main reason why I started to get involved, but it has grown on me in ways I never expected. It's a wonderful thing to be part of — it's the service part of it that I like. If you're going to donate money to something, why not give it back to your own community?
With all the painting companies around, what is one reason for your success?
About seven or eight years ago, I looked for a way to differentiate our company from the others, so I bought a distributorship of a unique product that no one else has in New England called CHIC Liquid Vinyl System. It's not actually paint, but a high viscosity liquid resin applied coating system that looks and feels just like paint. What it means is, once you paint your house with it, you never have to paint your house again. It's a lifetime guarantee. It requires a specific installation, which we've trained our entire crew how to do.
The locals have grown to trust you, but how do the summer people know what they can expect from North Atlantic?
I'm honest and fair with my customers. I don't claim to be the cheapest, but I give them good value. We'll come to do the best possible job and how ever many times we have to come back, to make you happy, we'll do it. I'm not going to fight with you. Obviously I can't paint a rotten piece of wood, but if it's in our power to fix something, we will. The other thing is my employees. We've worked hard to get the best people by pre-screening them; we don't just take anybody off the street. We make sure we're neat, clean, polite and respectful in client's houses. That's because rightfully so, people will judge your company based on your employees and I'm only as good as my employees.