Memphis Business Journal - Business Anniversaries

June 26 - July 2, 2020

For 115 years Farrell-Calhoun has been supplying Memphis and the Mid-South with premium quality paints and coatings. Founders John J. Farrell and T. Finley Calhoun started selling paint out of a small store on the corner of Second and Monroe. As business increased, they moved the manufacturing and warehouse to 400 N. Front Street. Farrell-Calhoun paint was manufactured at this location from 1910-1986.


In 1946, Neil Farrell became the President of Farrell-Calhoun and he quickly expanded from one store located downtown to four stores around the city, including Summer Avenue and Union at Crosstown, described as “Memphis’ largest and most modern paint and wallpaper store” which was “departmentalized to make shopping easier for customers”.


Neil Farrell sold the company in 1974 to Jack Ward who had been the Technical Director for Burk-Hall Paint but was interested in starting his own paint company. At the time, raw materials were in short supply due to the oil embargo and so buying the struggling Farrell-Calhoun was the only way to make that happen. Jack Ward then partnered with Joe Bowers who became the head of sales. According to Ward, “Initially our success was due to our having a quality, consistent product that was in stock at our stores”.


In 1986, Farrell-Calhoun’s manufacturing, corporate office, research and development lab, warehouse and downtown store moved to its current location at 221 E. Carolina Avenue. A $3.5 million plant expansion automation was needed by 1998 to increase production capabilities from 700,000 gallons a year to 3+ million gallons a year. In 2014-2015, Farrell-Calhoun renovated the vacant building next door at 710 B.B. King Boulevard for a new Warehouse with 99,000 square feet of space.


Currently Farrell-Calhoun has 45 company stores and 90 dealers across 15 states. For decades, the manufacturing facility has been engineered to reuse all process water and generate no hazardous waste. Recent plant upgrades include new and more efficient automation for the one gallon and five gallon filling lines.The company’s history continues to be a family affair with Jack Ward as President/CEO, Anthony Ward as VP of Sales and Marketing, Derek Ward as VP of Manufacturing, Julie Ward Fleming as Architectural and Marketing Manager and Stephen Varnado as Assistant Plant Manager.Farrell-Calhoun is proud to be a member of the Memphis business and manufacturing community for 115 years and support this city that we love.


Memphis Business Journal - Painting by Numbers

Plant expansion, acquisitions fuel growth, but operating debt free also aids Farrell-Calhoun

Premium content Memphis Business Journal by Christopher Sheffield

Date: Sunday, September 26, 2010, 11:00pm CDT - Last Modified: Thursday, September 23, 2010, 11:32am CDTAnthony Ward, vice president of sales and marketing, is part of the management team at family-owned Farrell-Calhoun Paint Inc.


Never underestimate name recognition.

That was a lessen the family-owned Farrell-Calhoun Paint Inc. was quickly reminded of when it prematurely tried to take on the St. Louis market in the late 1990s by opening retail stores. The venture promptly failed.


“It was ugly,” says Anthony Ward, Farrell-Calhoun’s vice president of sales and marketing. “We learned a lot of lessons.”


One of those was that no matter how good the product is “you have to have the right people,” Ward says.


The venture was an expensive loss.


But it was money well spent, Ward says, because it reinforced the long-held practice of slow, methodical expansion and the importance of timing and having the right personnel.


Its last acquisition was in May of this year when Farrell-Calhoun bought regional manufacturer Kentucky Paint Manufacturing Co. and its three retail stores and the product lines Town & Ranch, RustNox, FenceGuard, Double Duty, Acrylex and Dura Lex.


“We may not expand to another new market in four years,” Ward says. Then again, the company has the flexibility to be in three to four different markets in the next six months.


That sort of quick mobility is possible, in part, because the company has operated for 36 years with a pay-as-you-go attitude, Ward says.


Farrell-Calhoun has largely been debt free since the early 1980s, even as it has expanded its footprint to 13 states, 30 retail stores and more than 90 dealers. It’s now the 17th largest paint retailer in the country and the sole remaining independent manufacturer based in Memphis.


“We feel that has allowed us to do a lot of great things,” Ward says. “We don’t have to look for financing.”


However, all of that aggressive growth created a conundrum for the company. By the mid-1990s, the company could see that its dated production facility wasn’t going to be able to support much more expansion. The company was already running six days a week producing about 1.5 million gallons annually.


At that point, the company had only been expanding outside of Memphis for five years.


Though the company considered moving from its Downtown Memphis location on East Carolina, the more practical decision was to move warehousing and expand and modernize production with a $3.5 million investment, Ward says.


The investment doubled annual capacity to 3 million gallons, and provided the impetus for the company to expand significantly in this decade.


“It eliminated the bottlenecks,” he says. “It was well worth it.”


In the last few years, the company has faced challenges brought on by an economic recession that has all but decimated the residential housing industry, Ward says.


The economy has forced the company to adopt much tighter and stricter credit policies, Ward says. When many builders went bankrupt, so did many painting contractors, which left Farrell-Calhoun with a lot of money owed to them, he says.


“And one was buying over $100,000 a year from us,” Ward says. “They were good customers.”


Sales in 2007 hit a record $33 million before the affects of the recession showed up. In 2008, sales slipped to $30 million but have stabilized the last two years at $28 million.


“Flat is the new up,” Ward says.


Fortunately, the company has never relied solely on the residential sector for growth. Its customer base includes commercial, industrial and multi-family clients and its extensive independent dealer network of lumber yards, hardware and flooring stores and paint retailers who sell Farrell-Calhoun products.


Customers like Jerry Kelso, president of Jerry Kelso Painting, have been a staple for Farrell-Calhoun and the kind that have helped it weather the recession.


Kelso’s 22-employee company has intentionally stayed away from new residential construction to focus on commercial and renovations, he says.


“It would take a real major hit to knock us out of the water,” he says.


While earlier this year looked scary as business dropped, it’s picked back up and he’s got a full plate.


When he’s busy, having a local supplier like Farrell-Calhoun has been crucial and Ferrell-Calhoun has also helped by bidding on projects and throwing some work Kelso’s way.


“They stand behind everything,” he says. “If you have the same problem with a national company, I don’t feel I get the same respect.”


Farrell-Calhoun Paint Inc.

Paint manufacturer/retailer
President: Jack Ward
Start-up capital: $100,000
2009 revenue: $28 million
Address: 221 E. Carolina
Employees: 163
Phone: (901) 526-2211 



Paint Quality Institute - Best Performing Paint Brands

Winter Ending; Let the Painting Begin!

March 6, 2014  by Debbie Zimmer


Springtime is one of the most important seasons for exterior painting – especially after a difficult winter.  And given this year’s record snow, rain, ice and cold, it’s a good bet that before too long, a lot of us will be taking up paintbrushes and rollers to apply flat paint to our exterior walls.


Whatever winter weather your home has endured, it’s wise to inspect the exterior as soon as possible.  Spotting paint failures at an early stage may allow you to correct them without painting your entire home, and could even prevent damage to the structure below.  Should you see extensive peeling or flaking paint – or simply want to change your exterior color scheme – it’s time for a completely new paint job. 


Whatever the nature of your upcoming exterior painting project, here are some things to keep in mind.


First and foremost, you should apply only the best quality exterior paint to get a durable, long-lasting paint job.  How to find the best quality paint?  That’s where we at the Paint Quality Institute can help.  Our trained technicians are constantly evaluating paint performance and have identified a few good options that should hold up under even harsh conditions.


Based on our testing, examples of some of the best-performing national brands of flat wall paint available through leading home centers include Valspar® Duramax®Behr® Premium Plus Ultra®, and Ace Hardware’s Clark + Kensington™ paint.  Among the best-performing regional brands are California Paints® Fres~CoatFarrell-Calhoun Premium Flat, and Dunn-Edwards Evershield®.


What do these paints have in common?  All are made with 100% acrylic latex, a key ingredient in top quality paints.  All-acrylic binder helps paint adhere better while resisting cracking, flaking and fading, making for a longer-lasting, better-looking paint job.


To get the most out of 100% acrylic latex paint – or any paint, for that matter — it’s important that you carefully prepare the surface before starting to paint.  At a minimum, that means repairing or replacing any damaged siding and trim, scraping and sanding to remove any loose or flaking paint, removing any mildew that may be present, and thoroughly cleaning the surface.  


You should do your painting in moderate weather, avoiding days that are very windy or very hot, also making sure there is no serious threat of rain.  Adhering to these guidelines will help ensure that your paint dries properly to form a tough, durable film.


Finally, use quality brushes, rollers, and applicators.  They will make your project go faster and more effortlessly – and help produce a better-looking paint job.


So, at long last, bid farewell to winter.  And, if you need to do any exterior painting, say hello to one of the top-performing 100% acrylic latex exterior paints.  It will not only help beautify your home’s exterior, but also protect it for years to come!