- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2016

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) - With a name like Peeling Paints, you wouldn’t think a paint store would last long.

But that was the original name of Meade Baltz Paints, which has lasted 140 years - the first 90 years as Peeling Paints.

The store is closing now, however.

It’s a progressively challenging time for a family-owned paint store, said Brian Baltz, one of the fifth-generation owners.

“It’s a tough economy yet,” Baltz said. “Combined with the ever-growing competition, it’s past time.”

Business was great during the housing boom when Meade Baltz had two stores - one in Joliet and one in Plainfield, Baltz said. But the recession ended that, and business has become increasingly difficult in the big-box retail environment.

Baltz joined the family business full time in 1994, a year after his brother, Mike Baltz, went full time. Both grew up with the store, working there part time with their father, John Baltz, before deciding to make it their career, too.

“I think I got the bug after I came back,” Mike said. “We caught the building boom. Business kept going up, and we thought it was because of us.”

Business expanded during the 1990s and early 2000s as Meade Baltz Paints served a growing market of homeowners and painting contractors while Joliet became one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.

In the aftermath of the recession, people have been looking for lower-priced paint. Many of the painting contractors have disappeared, and those still around also have to cut costs to survive in an economy in which margins are tight.

But even during the good years, Brian said he expected the days of the family-owned painting business would end with him.

“I guess I always knew that me and Mike were going to be the last generation,” Brian said. “Not to be negative, but this is one thing, I didn’t want to get my kids into the business - just because of the landscape of the industry.”

Big-box stores kept getting bigger. The undercutting in prices kept getting larger. Once the recession hit, customers, even if they knew Meade Baltz could provide exceptional service and top-quality paint, would go elsewhere for a better price.

“People come to us with a piece of trim,” Brian said. “They say, ‘I’ve been to Home Depot. I’ve been to Menards. I’ve been to Lowe’s. They couldn’t match it, but I knew you guys could.’ … I don’t want to sound like sour grapes, but why didn’t you come here first?”

That wasn’t everybody, however.

Brian and Mike said they feel the store has been appreciated, especially since the closing sale has started and long-time customers have stopped in to bid farewell.

“It’s been a very emotional thing - more so than I thought,” Brian said. “People will come in at the counter and tell stories of buying from Peeling’s on Bluff Street. Two coffees later, we’re still talking. It brings back a lot of memories.”

The store was started by their great-great grandfather George Peeling in 1874 on Bluff Street, once the busiest commercial area in town, according to the family historian, Joe Baltz.

Peeling put his name on the store, so it was Peeling Paint or Peeling’s Paint. Either name was used, Joe said, and the locals grew accustomed to it.

“Anybody in town would not think it was a funny name, but for people coming into town it was hilarious,” Joe said.

The store remained Peeling Paint until 1946, when it was sold to Meade Baltz, the husband of Lydia Peeling. Meade Baltz put his name on the store.

Meade Baltz moved the store into the former Lincoln Lounge on Plainfield Road in 1966. The stone building now is the site of a laundromat.

The store moved to its current location at 928 Plainfield Road in 1980. A second Meade Baltz store was opened in Plainfield along Route 59 in 1995 and remained open until 2011.

The store is scheduled to close Oct. 29, although that could change depending on how much merchandise remains.

“It’s been fun,” said Brian. “No regrets.”

“I just want to give a great big thank you to everyone who’s supported us,” Mike said.

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Source: The (Joliet) Herald-News, https://bit.ly/2dXgNB6

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Information from: The Herald-News, https://www.theherald-news.com/

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